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In a very rare, but not unprecedented move, the US Patent Office has nullified a contentious technology patent. A spin off from the University of California, but described as a "one man operation", Eolas last year won $521 million from Microsoft for breach of what the former describes as its "web application platform". US Patent 5,838,906, granted in 1998, protects the execution of remote code embedded in hypertext pages.

The decision by an Illinois court to award the verdict to Eolas last year was widely condemned across the industry, and co-inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners Lee said the decision would "impair the usability of the Web for hundreds of millions of individuals in the United States and around the world." Microsoft had already promised to modify Internet Explorer code, although an injunction last month allowed it to wait until the Patent Office's review process was complete.

Eolas Technologies has 60 days to appeal.

Who's the one man in the One Man Band? Founder Dr Mike Doyle was formerly director of the Academic Computer Center at UCSF and is an adjunct professor at two other universities, and is a veteran scientific advisor to public institutions including the National Museum of Health and Medicine. ®

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