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Eolas' patent on the web ruled invalid

updated 11:40 pm EST, Thu February 9, 2012

Eolas sees web patent lawsuit claim tossed

Eolas' attempt to patent the "interactive web" may have been dealt a permanent blow after a jury in the normally patent lawsuit-friendly town of Tyler, Texas ruled that the patent was invalid. The decision negated both any attempts at claiming damages and also negated three future trials. The rejection came in part after testimony from the spiritual creator of the web, Tim Berners-Lee, as well as individual creators whose work predated that of Eolas owner Michael Doyle.

In the immediate case, Adobe, Amazon, CDW, Google, its YouTube sibling, JC Penney, Staples, and Yahoo could have faced damages over $600 million, including possible royalties.

The invalidation can be appealed, but if upheld could see a wide swath of companies hope to undo settlements they'd made at points when the patent was upheld and success looked bleak. These included major companies such as Apple, Blockbuster, eBay, Office Depot, Sun (now Oracle), and Texas Instruments, along with other banks, media outlets, and other large companies.

Companies such as Eolas often try for far-reaching patent lawsuits of the sort, especially in Tyler, Marshall, and other Texan cities whose judges tend to favor the patent holder in a lawsuit. Even if a patent is overbroad and the company has no meaningful products of its own, patent-only firms like Eolas often count on targets being unwilling to go through the effort of a trial to defend themselves and instead opting for quick, if expensive, settlements. [via Wired]

by MacNN Staff



  1. elroth

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Is there a tiny glimmer of sanity here? Definitely unexpected from Texas courts.

  1. climacs

    Joined: Dec 1969


    WTF is wrong with Texas?


  1. skepticus

    Joined: Dec 1969


    WTF is _right_ with Texas?

    your comment

  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Texas & Trolls

    What's wrong with Texas is actually what's wrong with NW Texas where Tyler is located. Like most of the South, Texas is only slowly escaping from its long legacy of single-party rule. In Texas, the problem was particularly acute, given the wealth of its oil and natural gas. The South as a whole was too poor under segregation to make crooked politicians very rich. Texas was the exception. LBJ is a good illustration of someone who grew fabulously wealthy off Texas corruption.

    Tyler remains an exception because Clinton appointed two very plaintiff-friendly judges to the federal court there. He was governor next door in Arkansas for ten years, so he knew exactly what he was doing. Sue-friendly districts make lots of money for lawyers and the Democratic party is owned--lock, stock and barrel--by tort lawyers. That's why Obama's huge and intrusive medical care 'reform' bill does nothing to remedy the distortions in medicine introduced by huge legal settlements. You and I may not be able to get the surgery we need because of some cost-cutting regulation out of a DC bureaucracy, but those tort lawyers will continue to grow rich.

    Not being able to win in Tyler may also have something to do with a jury that rightly recognized that voting in favor of this patent might interfere with their Facebook and Youtube. Just like there are companies 'too big to fail,' there are lawsuits 'too big to win.' If Eolas had won, it would have threatened too much for everyone.

    In the end, we need to make patent law more like trademark law. With trademarks, there's a use it or lose it situation. You can only keep a trademark by using it in trade. In similar fashion, someone with a patent ought to be forced to develop and license it rather than lurk in the shadows until it morphs into something really big to be sued and exploited.

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