Microsoft settles eight-year Eolas patent dispute

Microsoft has settled its long-running dispute with Eolas over a web browser patent.

Details of the settlement were not disclosed, though it is likely to be much less than the $521 million that Microsoft had originally been ordered to pay for breaching Eolas’ patent on a method for invoking an external application – such as a media player – within a browser.

That ruling was made in 2003, four years after Eolas first filed its lawsuit. But the origins of the dispute go back to the beginnings of the internet era. Eolas first offered to license the technology in 1994, but Microsoft declined.

Following the 2003 decision, Microsoft failed in an attempt to have the patent overturned and lost an appeal to the US Supreme Court. But in May of this year that same court made two major patent decisions that had a direct bearing on the Eolas dispute.

The USA’s highest court curbed the liability of firms for infringing products sold overseas and made it easier to invalidate some patents on the grounds they are obvious inventions. Both rulings favoured Microsoft.

“We’re pleased to be able to reach an amicable resolution in this long-running dispute with Eolas and the University of California,” says a Microsoft spokesperson.

“Microsoft values intellectual property and believes that the proper protection and licensing of IP enables companies and individuals to obtain a return on investment, sustain business and encourages future innovations and investment in the IT industry.”

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