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Eolas falls at first hurdle in bid to tax browser apps

Google grins at Adobe jury’s verdict

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A jury in Texas has ruled against Eolas Technologies in its patent battle to lay claim to the concept of in-browser applications and most plug-ins.

Internet luminaries such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee were flown into the small Texas city to testify in Eolas’ case against Adobe – the first time the father of the World Wide Web has ever appeared in court. The trial centered on the validity of two patents, one granted in 1998 and the other in 2009, that would have given the company claim on all embedded browser applications and plug-ins and AJAX (asynchronous JavaScript and XML) web development techniques.

The case started this week and the verdict wasn’t expected until the weekend, but in a very quick turnaround the jury came back with a negative result for the patent holder. An Eolas representative confirmed the result with El Reg, but said that the company had no comment at this time on any plans to appeal the verdict. Others, however, were a little more forthcoming.

“We are pleased that the court found the patents invalid, as it affirms our assertion that the claims are without merit," a Google spokesperson told The Register.

Google was one of many companies that could have faced massive penalties if the case had been successful, given both its web operations, Chrome browser, and ChromeOS platform. The range of the patents was so broad that money could be extracted from almost any internet company, and Eolas was going after some of the biggest.

Firms like Oracle and Texas Instruments chose to settle with Eolas, rather than risk a big payout in court, and must be feeling a tad silly right now. But before we mock, Eolas did manage to get a very large payout from Microsoft to settle claims relating to its earlier patent and the trial was occurring in a judicial district known to favor patent holders.

Where the case goes from here is unclear. All involved may just chose to swallow their legal costs and walk away, although an appeal seems likely. Eolas took its case against Microsoft all the way to the Supreme Court in an eight-year battle and isn’t known for walking away from litigation. ®

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