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Eolas patent ruling provokes IE tweak

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Microsoft is planning to launch a slightly amended version of Internet Explorer that works around a disputed patent for technology allowing web browsers to access interactive application programs, according to reports. In September, the US Patents and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that it had reexamined the patent and determined that it was valid.

The patent is owned by the University of California and licensed by tiny tech firm Eolas Technologies, both of which sued Microsoft for infringement in 1999. In 2003, a jury agreed with the claim and awarded damages of $520.6m plus interest.

Microsoft appealed and, in March this year, it won a retrial. The case has been sent back to the District Court, where Microsoft effectively has to show that the Eolas patent is invalid because the technology behind the patent was already in the public domain.

Its case will be made more difficult by the USPTO September ruling. Microsoft announced in September 2003 that it was planning changes to its browser software in case it lost the case, but then appeared to put matters on hold.

According to reports, the company has now confirmed that, from January, it will be releasing patches containing new code that works around the Eolas-related patent. New versions of Windows 2000 and Windows XP containing the amendments will also be shipped from early next year.

The changes are said to be minor, and may only require users to click twice in order to access embedded applications, according to reports.

See: Microsoft on the changes

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