Tim Berners-Lee In Court To Try To Prevent Patent Troll Eolas From Patenting Key Web Concepts

from the not-this-again dept

Remember Eolas? We've written about this infamous patent troll many times, mostly focusing on its big patent fight with Microsoft over the idea of browser plugins -- a case it eventually settled. In 2009, however, Eolas came back and basically sued the web, claiming that all sorts of very basic web technologies were, in fact, infringing on a brand new, ridiculously broad patent (built on the earlier patent), 7,599,985.

However, that case has finally gone to trial, and Wired has sent Joe Mullin -- hands down the best reporter on all things concerning patents -- to cover the case. His initial report is worth reading. Unfortunately, he notes that many of the companies Eolas sued chose to settle, helping to fund Eolas' ability to take this to court. Eight companies remain fighting. Eolas is asking for $600 million from these companies -- including over $300 million from Google and Yahoo.

As he had done nearly a decade ago, web inventor Tim Berners-Lee was called to explain to the court that Eolas' claims are ridiculous and the patents should be tossed out due to tremendous amounts of prior art. Berners-Lee also pointed out that these patents "could be a serious threat to the future of the web." He didn't mince words, noting that all of this stuff was widely known in the community of technologists working on these issues well before Eolas ever came along.

Last summer there was tremendous attention paid to the problem of patents within the tech space, but much of that furor died down after the patent reform bill became law -- even though it addressed almost none of the actual complaints about how the patent system hinders innovation. Once fall came, a lot of focus shifted back to copyright issues around SOPA. But people should be very, very worried about the outcome of this case, because if it goes badly, it could lead to a massive tollbooth on internet innovation.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2012 @ 12:24pm

    Can we boycott Eolas and everyone on his side in this bogus lawsuit, including the University of California (that stands to make millions if Eolas wins)?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2012 @ 12:29pm

    I tried to view the images for that patent

    But my browser couldn't find a valid plugin. DAMN YOU EOLAS!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    atroon, 9 Feb 2012 @ 12:31pm


    Unfortunately no, because he is not producing anything people buy or use...so a boycott doesn't hurt him. The problem with NPEs is that they are not affected by market forces, they just drag on the whole system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    :Lobo Santo (profile), 9 Feb 2012 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Earth, Wind, and

    I believe the answer is 'yes' provided you first replace the word 'boycott' with 'engulf in flames'.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Pixelation, 9 Feb 2012 @ 1:01pm

    Did anyone else read their name and see Ebolas?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2012 @ 1:09pm

    Re: Re: Earth, Wind, and

    When you only have a torch, all your problems look like kindling. I approve this message.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Benjo (profile), 9 Feb 2012 @ 1:14pm

    Is it possible

    To have a case in a counter suit against something like this. I want precedent for a huge patent troll to get counter-sued into bankruptcy/shame as distastefully as possible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2012 @ 1:38pm

    Re: Is it possible

    Or... just patent "patent trolling" and you'll be all set to go...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2012 @ 2:02pm

    I'm gonna patent patent trolling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Planespotter (profile), 9 Feb 2012 @ 2:11pm

    Texas jury agreed Eolas 906 patent invalid. Good thing too!

    Tweet from 30 mins ago!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2012 @ 2:39pm


    Eolas falls at first hurdle in bid to tax browser apps”, by Iain Thomson, The Register, 9 Feb 2012 22:13 GMT
    Google grins at Adobe jury’s verdict


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Pixelation, 9 Feb 2012 @ 2:40pm


    Woohoo! Sanity prevails.

    We should start a protest against them now demanding that they return any money the received from the settlements.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Feb 2012 @ 2:45pm


    A shout-out to Joe Mullin!

    Texas Jury Strikes Down Patent Troll’s Claim to Own the Interactive Web”, by Joe Mullin, Wired, Feb 9, 2012 5:26 pm

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    DB, 9 Feb 2012 @ 3:18pm


    Troll is not a verb (and "trolling", inapplicable) in this contest. Patent Trolls are called that because of the Troll in Billy Goats Gruff who jumped up from under the bridge to demand a toll for crossing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    The Moondoggie, 9 Feb 2012 @ 3:46pm

    The only solution to trolls...

    Kill them. They're starting to show some attitude? Kill them. This guy? Nobody's gonna miss him when he's gone. Just kill him, one bullet is all it takes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    dwg, 9 Feb 2012 @ 4:14pm

    Re: Is it possible

    Screw counterclaims: straight-up class action by all those wrongly accused by trolls but who have settled nonetheless. Sue the trolls, sue their counsel for malicious prosecution and threats of litigation not supported by law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), 9 Feb 2012 @ 7:53pm


    I always do. Funny how that happens. They seem very similar.

    (No offense intended towards Ebolas victims. )

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    staff, 10 Feb 2012 @ 3:23pm

    another biased article

    Masnick and his monkeys have an unreported conflict of interest-

    They sell blog filler and "insights" to major corporations including MS, HP, IBM etc. who just happen to be some of the world’s most frequent patent suit defendants. Obviously, he has failed to report his conflicts as any reputable reporter would. But then Masnick and his monkeys are not reporters. They are patent system saboteurs receiving funding from huge corporate infringers. They cannot be trusted and have no credibility. All they know about patents is they don’t have any.

    “Patent troll”

    Call it what you will...patent hoarder, patent troll, non-practicing entity, shell company, etc. It all means one thing: “we’re using your invention and we’re not going to pay or stop”. This is just dissembling by large infringers to kill any inventor support system. It is purely about legalizing theft.

    Prior to eBay v Mercexchange, small entities had a viable chance at commercializing their inventions. If the defendant was found guilty, an injunction was most always issued. Then the inventor small entity could enjoy the exclusive use of his invention in commercializing it. Unfortunately, injunctions are often no longer available to small entity inventors because of the Supreme Court decision so we have no fair chance to compete with much larger entities who are now free to use our inventions. Essentially, large infringers now have your gun and all the bullets. Worse yet, inability to commercialize means those same small entities will not be hiring new employees to roll out their products and services. And now some of those same parties who killed injunctions for small entities and thus blocked their chance at commercializing now complain that small entity inventors are not commercializing. They created the problem and now they want to blame small entities for it. What dissembling! If you don’t like this state of affairs (your unemployment is running out), tell your Congress member. Then maybe we can get some sense back in the patent system with injunctions fully enforceable on all infringers by all inventors, large and small.

    Those wishing to help fight big business giveaways should contact us as below and join the fight as we are building a network of inventors and other stakeholders to lobby Congress to restore property rights for all patent owners -large and small.

    For the truth about trolls, please see http://truereform.piausa.org/default.html#pt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Niall (profile), 14 Feb 2012 @ 4:36am

    Re: trolling

    Forsooth! And here I was thinking that language evolved! Are you perhaps French? :)

    But +1 for the Three Billy Goats Gruff. Except that it's actually "Tre Bukkene Bruse" in the original Norwegian! Gotta keep those languages preserved!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    Niall (profile), 14 Feb 2012 @ 4:43am

    Re: another biased article

    Shouldn't this guy be getting caught up in the spam filter for using the same copypasta in various posts?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    patent litigation, 19 Feb 2012 @ 3:07pm


    It's patent enforcement actions like this one that bring software patents into disrepute. While I'm not against the idea of patenting software, this particular patent litigation makes me think that maybe the ability to do so should be limited.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. identicon
    Ximing Huang, 24 Feb 2012 @ 11:39pm

    to pay the patent fees after one has money whilst reduce the examination demand

    I have an idea which might be infavor of both the poor individual inventors and also the USPTO. This may enable those invidual inventors to pay the high sum of patent fees later and relieve the burden of the USPTO.
    For a patent application, if it is published after 18 months from the filing date, then it should be examined only when the applicant make a request. While before the very time he makes the request, his application shall not be protected so everyone may use the published invention roylty free even it is granted sometime later. This bargin is to prevent the applicant to sell his patent application while without paying the patent fees for that time.
    As a result, there are two merits:
    For the poor individual inventors, he may request an examination when he has found the buyer of the invention.
    For the USPTO, many applications which do not mean to be carried out at all shall not be examined at all to allow the USPTO have much more time to examine those really in a hurry.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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