Microsoft Corporation improperly put patented Web browser technology into its Internet Explorer, helping the computer giant to win critical market share from rival Netscape Navigator, according to a verdict handed down today by a federal jury in Chicago. In the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, the 12-member jury found that Microsoft infringed a patent owned by the University of California and licensed by Eolas Technologies, Inc., and awarded the two $520.6 million in damages.
“This verdict is a significant landmark in defining and protecting Internet technology whose benefits literally reach the whole world,” said James E. Holst, the university’s general counsel. “As a public institution that reinvests its licensing revenue in its larger research mission, we are gratified by the jury’s recognition that UC and Eolas must be fairly compensated for use of its patented technology.”
Eolas and the University of California claimed that Microsoft infringed U.S. Patent No. 5,838,906, which was issued to UC on Nov. 17, 1998 and licensed exclusively to Eolas in October 1994. Under the terms of the license agreement, Eolas pays UC for products it makes under the patent and for licenses it grants under the patent.
Technology to deliver and manipulate Web content was burgeoning in the early 1990s. Dr. Michael Doyle, Eolas’ president and former UC researcher, co-invented the patent’s technology to allow interactive applications in Web pages, which previously was limited to static information and helper applications. In 1995, the patented technology’s features began appearing in commercial Web browser programs; and interactivity has become a hallmark of the Internet ever since.
“Facing competition from Netscape Navigator in the mid-1990s, Microsoft updated its Explorer browser by using Eolas’ technology and subsequently bundled it with all of its Windows operating systems since 1995,” said Eolas’ lead trial attorney, Martin R. Lueck, of Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P.
The patented technology is a key component of the interactivity available on the Internet today. It allows web page developers to embed interactive programs in Web pages. A browser, equipped with the University of California’s patented technology, is able to deliver that interactivity to the user. For example, the technology is used often with stock information, video players, games, virtual real estate tours and other interactive content on the Web. The patent allows the Web to be a platform for fully interactive embedded applications.
In 1993, as part of UC’s Innovative Software Systems Group, Doyle and his research team were working to transform how scientific information was created, accessed and published. As part of their research, they began to explore the possibility of expanding the sciences by allowing scientists to read not only what was published online but to interact with that data. While early Web participants struggled to implement helper applications, the team was already examining the potential of the Web to become a platform for fully interactive embedded applications.