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.