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Microsoft preps IE changes in response to patent ruling

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Microsoft may alter its dominant Internet Explorer Web browser following a ruling against it in a Chicago court earlier this month.

That is according to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), an industry standards body, which said on its Web site that the Seattle giant had told the group that changes to the software may be in order. It was in mid August that Microsoft lost a civil case brought against it by Eolas Technologies and was ordered to pay the company $520.6 million for infringing on patents relating to Internet Explorer (IE).

"In the near term, Microsoft has indicated to W3C that they will very soon be making changes to its Internet Explorer browser software in response to this ruling," a statement issued by Steven R Bratt, W3C's chief operating officer, said.

"These changes may affect a large number of existing Web pages," the statement continued. "W3C does not yet have any indication of what action, if any, other vendors of Web tools might take."

Microsoft is a member of the consortium but has not yet publicly said that changes to the software will occur, although Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler told Bloomberg on Thursday that the maker of the Windows operating system "may take precautionary steps in response to the ruling." He also admitted that Microsoft had talked to W3C about the ruling.

According to W3C, members of the consortium met in California on 19 August to discuss the consequences of the ruling, which effectively said that Microsoft had used Eolas-patented technology such as plug-ins, applets and scriptlets in Internet Explorer. Were the offending portions of the software to be removed, it would significantly alter the way IE works and countless Web sites would be forced to change their own to accommodate changes in IE.

It's understood that Microsoft presented options to W3C members about changes it was considering, although the details of these discussions have not been released to the press. "There was widespread agreement that a solution that minimizes the effects of changes to Web software, Web sites and the user experience was needed," W3C said.

From Microsoft's perspective changing some of the code in its browser, which is used by about 96 percent of all Web users, would allow the company to avoid paying royalty fees to Eolas. After the court's decision in the lawsuit was announced, Eolas said it would pursue Microsoft for further payments, which in the next few years could add up to hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars.

© ENN

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