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John Soat
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IT Confidential: Patents, Fraud, And Three Times The Work

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently took the unusual step of initiating a re-examination process on a patent, something even the USPTO acknowledges very rarely happens. The patent in question--number 5,838,906--is owned by the University of California and licensed to a company called Eolas Technologies. The patent covers technology that allows a browser to call programs over the Internet to display advanced graphics and other content within a Web page. Late last month, Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium, wrote to the Patent Office to ask for the re-examination, based on "prior art" the W3C said it had documented. Berners-Lee argued that the patent threatens "substantial economic and technical damage" to the Web and to users of HTML, the dominant programming language on the Web. Eolas has been aggressively enforcing its patent and in August won a $521 million award against Microsoft for violating the patent in its Internet Explorer Web browser.

The Securities and Exchange Commission last week filed fraud charges against Jeffrey Weitzen, former CEO; John Todd, former chief financial officer; and Robert Manza, former controller of PC-maker Gateway, "for engaging in a fraudulent earnings manipulation scheme to meet Wall Street analysts' expectations, and for making false statements and concealing from the investing public important information about the success of Gateway's personal computer (PC) business, in the second and third quarters of 2000," according to a statement. In a related announcement, Gateway said it had reached an agreement with the SEC to close its investigation of the company's 2000 financial transactions. "We're very pleased to put this issue from our past behind us," said Gateway chairman and CEO Ted Waitt, who had relinquished his management role at the company in late 1999 but returned as CEO in early 2001.

Kinko's, the copy-store franchiser, said last week that Laurie Zeitlin had joined the company as senior VP and CIO. Zeitlin will be responsible for all technology-related development, operations, and support for Kinko's customer applications, retail operations, distributed manufacturing, and information systems. Zeitlin comes to Kinko's from Home Depot, where she was VP of IT.

Speaking of stepping up, Wind River Systems, the embedded-software and services company, said last week it had tapped Ken Klein as its new president, CEO, and chairman. Klein will take over the position in January. Klein is currently chief operating officer of Mercury Interactive, the red-hot vendor of business-technology optimization software. Klein joined Wind River's board in July.

I'm glad I don't have that job--now that he has three titles, they probably expect him to do three times the work. Just like I expect you to send me an industry tip, to or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about software patents, financial malfeasance, or your dream job, meet me at's Listening Post:

To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

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