The patent wars rage on. Eolas, a company that before won US$585 million from Microsoft in 2003 in a suit that challenged the use of ActiveX and AJAX, is now after twenty-three separate companies allegedly because their precious patent was spoiled by all of them.
Back in the good old days when the Internet was still in its tween years (perhaps it still is), Eolas and the University of California secured a patent that effectively claimed “I Did This!” rights for third-party browser plugins; the patent essentially allowed for programs running within other programs. Not long afterwards, Eolas sued Microsoft for violating the patent in the company’s ActiveX plugin. After a ridiculous amount of time of legal squabbling even after the suit’s “finish” in 2003, the two companies settled on an agreement in 2007.
Well, Eolas is back at it again, suing 23 companies of varying caliber for the exact same patent from before as well as a new budding money-maker that “allows websites to add fully-interactive embedded applications to their online offerings through the use of plug-in and AJAX;” this second patent builds off of the original patent. Some of the most prestigious companies included in the suage (I invented a word, so sue me) bombardment are Google, Apple, Adobe, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, and YouTube.
How this actually gets interesting instead of being just another patent troll swinging his club at the nearest deep-pocketed competitor is that Eolas actually won a hefty half a billion US dollars with this patent already. Tried and true, this patent doesn’t make just another throw-away case– if Eolas did it once, then what’s to say that they can’t get away with it again? This patent could be the key to sucking a lot of cash out of many of the companies in question, not to mention affect a lot of things in the browser and website industry that we take for granted.
Mike McKool, one of Eolas’ lawyers, said that “what distinguishes this case from most patent suits is that so many established companies named as defendants are infringing a patent that has been ruled valid by the Patent Office on three occasions.” The company chairman, Michael Doyle, added, “We just want what’s fair.” My addition? “You just want what’s greenish and has ‘FEDERAL RESERVE NOTE’ imprinted on it.” Then again, if I invented a technology and knew I could get money out of slapping others for using it, it’d be sorely tempting to do so. Still, does the fact that a person (or group of persons) can do something mean that they should?
This, of course, brings up the much-debated topic of whether or not software ought to be patentable as well as the much-debated patent and even copyright laws of our world today. Your thoughts? You know you want to share them. The first commenter gets bragging rights (no suing over those, either).
Maybe one day these bastards will sue each other into oblivion, then we can have an end to this nonsense.
“Hey, you’ve got windows in your app with drop-shadows… I own that sh!t! Pay up, or else!!!!”
Note: I’m not totally anti-patent such that if you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars creating something very specific (such as a media codec), you should be able to collect royalties when people use it, but some of this stuff is just way over the top.
Edited 2009-10-06 21:53 UTC