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10/6/2009
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Eolas Patents The Interactive Web, Sues Tech Giants

Developer claims Google, Yahoo, Adobe, Sun and other IT luminaries have purloined its Internet application technology.

A half-decade after it won a $565 million court judgment against Microsoft for patent infringement, University of California tech spinoff Eolas has filed another lawsuit based on the same technology—this time against a virtual who's who of the tech industry's biggest players.

Named in the suit, filed Tuesday, are Adobe, Sun Microsystems, Yahoo, Google, eBay, Amazon, and Perot Systems. Also listed as defendants are several companies, including Blockbuster, Playboy, JPMorgan Chase, and J.C. Penney, that use the technology on their Web sites.

Eolas' patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,838,906, governs technology that allows Web browsers "to act as platforms for fully-interactive embedded applications."

In its suit, Eolas also claimed the defendants are violating a related patent it holds, No. 7,599,985, that allows users "to add fully interactive embedded applications" to their sites through plug-ins and AJAX Web programming methods.

Eolas insists both patents are valid and have been thoroughly vetted by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. If upheld, they could give the company a claim on virtually every Web site that hosts interactive applications, including those that offer new-wave cloud computing services.

"We developed these techniques over 15 years ago and demonstrated them widely, years before the marketplace had heard of interactive applications embedded in Web pages tapping into powerful remote resources," said Eolas chairman Michael Doyle, in a statement.

"Profiting from someone else's innovation without payment is fundamentally unfair. All we want is what's fair," said Doyle.

The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas, which has become known as "the plaintiff's paradise" following a series of rulings favorable to firms that filed patent infringement cases in the jurisdiction.

Eolas first sued Microsoft in 1999 in federal court in Illinois, claiming that the software maker's methods for accessing interactive content in Web pages viewed through Internet Explorer violated Eolas' patents.

Eolas was awarded damages in 2004, and soon afterwards Microsoft announced architectural changes to Explorer in an effort to work around the patents.

However, the initial judgment was tossed out on appeal in 2005. The case was headed for a new trial in 2007 before Eolas and Microsoft worked out an undisclosed settlement.

InformationWeek and Dr. Dobb's have published an in-depth report on how Web application development is moving to online platforms. Download the report here (registration required).

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