Tim “I helped invent the Internet” Berners-Lee testified before a federal jury earlier this week, tearing into the validity of a key patent Eolas Technologies’ was exploiting to sue multiple web companies for $US600 million. He must have been persuasive because the court took mere hours to reach its decision.
Eolas Technologies, an infamous patent troll firm with previous wins over Microsoft and others, had named over a dozen web companies in its 2009 suit alleging that the sites had infringed upon Eolas’ “Interactive Web” patent, awarded the year before, and claiming ownership over online video, image rotation and search auto-complete.
Office Depot, Rent-A-Center, Playboy, Oracle and others named in the suit had already agreed to settle the case, but Google and Amazon decided to fight it.
Berners-Lee testified to the potentially catastrophic and chilling effects this patent would have if upheld — which they somehow were by the USPO. Pei-Yuan Wei, inventor of the Viola browser, and Dave Raggett, creator of the embed tag also testified since the patent in question performed precisely the same function as their creations as well as others that were already widely known, if not already claimed.
Both sides in the case reportedly spent millions of dollars and years of effort creating presentations to convince the eight-judge panel but, in the end, the defendants won out and the judges declared the “Interactive Web” patent invalid. Eolas does have deep pockets and are likely to appeal — given the potentially gigantic payout — but this judgement invalidates its claims for the time being and prevents the firm from litigating any other company until the appeal is concluded. The web is safe — for now. [Wired via CNET via Techmeme]