But Microsoft, as is its habit, insists that the jury verdict is not the end of the story but the beginning, that it did nothing wrong and even if it did that the remedy is out of whack with the wrong. This is what Microsoft often says after losing a trial and before the inevitable appeals.
The lawsuit was filed in 1999 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois by Michael Doyle, founder of Eolas Technologies in Chicago, who patented technology in 1994 when he was at UC San Francisco that allowed Web-page developers to embed interactive programs in Web pages.
His company later licensed the product from the university so it could exploit it commercially, but it never did. Eolas’ lawyers say it approached Microsoft in 1994 along with a number of other companies regarding the technology, but that “they cannot speculate as to why Microsoft never pursued licensing opportunities then.”
Neither, it seems, did any of the other companies. Eolas says that with Microsoft and others adopting its technology it was crowded out of the marketplace, leaving the courts as its only option. At trial, Eolas argued that the invention had been crucial in permitting Microsoft to compete against the Netscape Navigator Web browser, now owned by AOL Time Warner.
Microsoft insists that it developed its own technology that does the same thing and that, in any event, there were inventors who preceded Doyle, who was awarded his patent along with David Martin and Cheong Ang. The company will appeal. “There has been no infringement,” said Jim Desler, a Microsoft spokesman. “These features were developed by our own engineers based on our preexisting technology.” Patent infringement suits are commonplace, especially in technology. They often fail and, like lawsuits of all kinds, rarely go to trial. According to The Washington Post, Microsoft still faces more than 30 pending cases, while 12 others have been thrown out in the past three years.
While Microsoft would have no problem paying an award, it will try to knock it down, apparently on the grounds that the invention in question was an infinitesimal part of Windows, even if it was part of Windows at all. Eolas, for his part, will seek to have the award increased based on sales occurring after September 2001, the cut-off date for damages determined by the jury, its lawyers say.