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Eolas To Sue Apple, Google, and 21 Others 252

Posted by kdawson
from the foaming-cleanser dept.
vinodis and several other readers sent along the news that Eolas is suing 23 companies including Apple and Google for patent infringement. The company won $585M from Microsoft in a drawn-out, 9-year battle that the companies settled in 2007; in the course of it the USPTO upheld the "906" patent several times. Now, Eolas is also in possession of a newly-issued patent that they claim covers the use of any browser plugin with AJAX. Let's see how far this lawsuit gets before the Supreme Court plays its wildcard in the Bilski case, which we have been discussing for a while now.
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Eolas To Sue Apple, Google, and 21 Others

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  • It seems some judges forget to obey the internet rules...
  • Indemnity, please.

  • by dingen (958134) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:01PM (#29663599)

    What the hell does this mean?

    a newly issued patent that they claim covers the use of any browser plugin with AJAX

    What do plugins and AJAX have to do with each other? Are they saying you can't build a browser that supports AJAX? I don't understand what the patent is for.

    • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:03PM (#29663631)

      It means that, once again, the USPTO's employee drug-testing policy has failed us all.

      • Just the opposite. If you're high, you're going to read their patent app, chuckle, grab a handful of cheetoes, and throw it in a box never to be seen from again.
    • Can someone link this this "985 patent"? I can't find it linked in any article on this subject. Why do major media never link to anything?

      • by rsborg (111459) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:15PM (#29663763) Homepage

        Can someone link this this "985 patent"? I can't find it linked in any article on this subject. Why do major media never link to anything?

        Uh, looks like they did link it at the end, you just have to RTFA:

        US Patent 7,599,985 [uspto.gov] for a "Distributed hypermedia method and system for automatically invoking external application providing interaction and display of embedded objects within a hypermedia document"

        • by Korin43 (881732)
          I just read that and it sounds like a patent for Javascript..
        • by Zocalo (252965) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:54PM (#29664123) Homepage
          Is that all? Excellent! In that case I think that I can cite an example of prior art.

          I worked on a system called "MUCH", short for "Many Users Creating Hypermedia", at the University of Liverpool in England back in 1989-1992. Running on UNIX and built in-house by postgraduate students under the guidance of Professor Roy Rada using C and the Andrew Toolkit", the project itself was inspired by Ted Nelson's "Project Xanadu" [xanadu.net]. Mention of the project is also made in Prof. Rada's C.V. [umbc.edu] at his current employer, The University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

          Fairly obviously, given the name, MUCH allowed multiple users to collaboratively create SGML based hypermedia documents via an integrated version control mechanism similar to that employed by Wikipedia. These documents, while mostly textual (it was the early 1990's!) besides having the ability to contain both graphical and audio content, could also contain any number of embedded external applets written using the Andrew Toolkit. Some of the proof of concept applications developed while I was there (work continued after I left) included animated clocks, calendars, calculators and other widgets, many of which were interactive.
          • They say HTML in the patent.... who know what a well thinking judge will think of a SGML derivative like HTML

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by mysidia (191772)

              So if Youtube rewrites their site in XML, instead of HTML, they won't be infringing?

          • I'm not kidding, shoot them an e-mail letting them know you worked on this, with some links to relevant details. They may blow you off, but if the mail gets to the right person, they'll be very interested.

          • I'm really curious which projects like this (and there were many that *I* think could be considered prior art) Microsoft chose to use in their defense.

  • And then (Score:3, Insightful)

    by El Lobo (994537) * on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:02PM (#29663611)
    ...people still scream in joy in this place whenever MS gets sued by some patent troll.... without knowing that this only leads to:

    1- Other will be sued if they succeed.

    2- MS, Abble and others will get more and more defensive patents..

    So here we go...

    • Re:And then (Score:4, Funny)

      by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:45PM (#29664055)

      Dude, seriously? "Abble?"

    • Ahh, don't be douche. Some of us have a hard time choosing between a patent troll and Microsoft. In this case, I'd have to side with MS.

      Let's all pray to which ever holy or unholy gods we might worship or curse that SCOTUS simply shoots down software patents, and solves this whole problem. Then, we can all pray that SCOTUS gets some copyright cases soon, and establishes once and for all that copyrights are good for ~15 years - give us a good, firm number that is going to stand from now on. No more of th

  • technology judges (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:03PM (#29663629)

    There needs to be special judges just for technology cases. The existing judges are completely out of their realm when it comes to technology patent judgements. I hate that some 80 year old judge who has never used a computer in his/her life has any kind of say-so technology patents. These judges can probably barely grasp how to turn a computer on let alone make a ruling on anything that has to do with them.

    • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:34PM (#29663935)

      Yup, it's true. I did IT work for a group of them back when I was in college. I was "team one", and they had some other guys who were "team two". We helped them in shifts.

      One day I got a phone call.

      It was one of the lawyers. He couldn't log on. "The box under my computer is missing."

      Ah, I think. Those wily rascals in Team 2 snagged his UPS or his power strip and didn't replace it. No biggie. I'll buy a power strip and scoot on over.

      I look under his desk.

      His PC is missing.

      The cords to his monitor, mouse, and keyboard were dangling in space and he sat there typing away wondering why he couldn't "log on".

      I apologize for the nightmares, heebie-jeebies, and general loss of sleep you'll have from my story. Yes folks, these are the people in charge of our livelihood.

      We're screwed.

      • I apologize for the nightmares, heebie-jeebies, and general loss of sleep you'll have from my story. Yes folks, these are the people in charge of our livelihood.

        One thing you don't mention is this particular patent attorney's practice area. I am a patent agent, and in two years, will be a patent attorney. I work in high tech and have a decade of EE and IT experience. However, I also work with a bunch of bio and chem PhDs who know next to nothing about computers. But there's nothing to cause you any loss of sleep - they don't write or prosecute patents involving computers, software, or electrical circuits, just as I don't write or prosecute patents involving intrace

        • i'm sorry dogg but if you have a phD in bio or chem and you can't even tell your computer is completely missing you need to pack it in and find something else to do.

        • Well honestly I don't know what their area of expertise was. I just ran cable for them. We didn't talk much about what they did. We just talked about what I did.

          But I do know this.

          You should have the minimal critical thinking skills to figure out if your PC is missing if you're in any tech related field at all.

          I picture these sorts of people at home, preparing for their day. They place toast in the toaster. It doesn't toast! So...they wait. And wait and wait. Never noticing that the toaster is

      • by Ecuador (740021) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @08:45PM (#29665045) Homepage

        We had some patent lawyers working for us. They were charging $600/h (with impressive and detailed invoices e.g. "Reading your MM/DD email: 15m") for their lawyer's time, and $200/h for their assistants/paralegals/i don't know how non-associate types who do the chores are called. Anyway, while the former where ridiculously expensive per hour, it was the $200/h guys that were even more annoying, as they were charging several hours for simple tasks. The most vivid example:
        My boss sends them a 100 page document in pdf that they needed to sign on the last page and return via email fast, to make a deadline that was about 2 h away. The 2h were almost up and there still was no email. So, my boss calls them and it went like this:

        -Sorry, but the document was too many pages so it took us a lot of time to scan it, we are now finishing up...
        -But... um... I sent you a pdf document, you already had a file...
        -Well, we had to sign it so we had to print it and scan it, duh
        -But... um... you only needed to scan the last page and replace the last page of the pdf, why the whole document???
        -(with genuine interest) Reeeaaally? You can do that? We definitely have to look into that! Anyway, just a few pages left now, we'll email soon - don't worry.

        There you go, $400 to sign a document.

        • by mgblst (80109)

          It is really your fault for not making it immediately obvious. have you never dealt with another company before.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Orion Blastar (457579)

        I worked for a law firm, that is common place.

        Lawyers who are creme of the crop and win a lot of tough cases, cannot figure out simple stuff about computers.

        I was once told that my program didn't work because the mouse wouldn't click on a button, only to learn the lawyer was using the right button instead of the left button. I nicely told the lawyer to try the left button and he got upset at me and claimed the fault was with my program, not him. Then after calling me a lot of bad names and saying stuff like

  • !eulas (Score:5, Funny)

    by snl2587 (1177409) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:04PM (#29663639)

    For a second I read that as "EULAs To Sue Apple, Google, and 21 Others"...oh, the irony.

    • Let me know if you figure out a way patent the EULA and sue everyone who uses one. I'm sure the lawyers would love the recursion. It'd be like a perpetual money machine.

  • by SilverHatHacker (1381259) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:05PM (#29663655)
    I think we've hit the breaking point for software patents. The i4i suit was the first real big patent case I can remember (disclaimer, I have a short memory), especially due to the number of people affected - not just users, but retailers like Dell (according to them). This one ought to make everyone say "enough is enough".

    [/fingers_crossed]
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The i4i case was MS being naughty. They contracted a job to them, but used the product in a way not allowed. They weren't patent trolls.

    • by Pieroxy (222434)

      The question is: Will it be enough?

      There is a whole system in front of us that basically don't get it. They think software engineering is much like regular engineering, and this idea has to vanish before we can get anywhere. And you know how good are computer scientists at communicating with others.... So getting the message to them might prove to be a slow process.

      I am afraid we're not there yet...

    • by MrMista_B (891430) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:41PM (#29664021)

      Yeah, 'cept with the i4i case, they actually /did/ have a patient, and Microsoft actually /did/ break the law and steal their code after working with them. They weren't actually patent trolls, though Microsoft did a great job painting them that way.

  • Fuck Eolas (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maharb (1534501) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:10PM (#29663703)

    This is the type of scum of the earth shit that ruins productivity, innovation, and increases costs for every other consumer. Everyone wants to throw CEO's in jail yet these douche bags don't do ANYTHING productive for society. At least CEO's try and make their companies profitable(by providing services to consumers), even if it is just to cash in stock options.

    Talk about the ultimate drain on society being upheld by the government... we need to vote against the judges and politicians that allow this to happen under their watch. GET OUT AND VOTE AGAINST THIS!! It will lower the cost of doing business and consequently the cost of goods and services. It will make these lawyers get out of the legal system for frivolous shit and back to doing something productive for society.

  • These are the spawn of Satan that forced the whole web to change the way they embed Flash movies [wikipedia.org], among other things.
    • Could you explain a bit more? That Wiki article doesn't mention what exactly had to change due to patents...
      • by riceboy50 (631755)
        Sorry, should have also mentioned this, which is what SWFObject is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eolas#Workarounds [wikipedia.org].
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        IE had to change Flash movies to a "click to play" configuration-- not necessarily a bad thing, really. Other browser makers generally didn't bother, since Eolas didn't sue them.

        Note that it didn't take long for the guys who made SWFObject to figure out how to embed Flash media legally and still make it auto-play, and virtually everybody uses SWFObject, so now "click to play" is mostly obsolete.

    • That "click to activate this control" was the last straw that made me dump IE for good.
  • Hit Squad (Score:5, Funny)

    by sycodon (149926) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:24PM (#29663851)

    For much less than 500 million, you can probably get a very discreet and effective hit squad to take out the entire management of Eolas and the attorneys too.

    They would probably do the attorneys for free.

  • Honest question. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jaysyn (203771) <jaysyn+slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @06:28PM (#29663889) Homepage Journal

    If you are able to sue 23 corporations that are also competitors for infringing on your patent, doesn't that pretty much mean it's an obvious, non-unique patent & should be thrown out?

    • by SomeJoel (1061138)
      Naw, only one of them actually infringed. But Eolas will be damned to tell us which one. We'll let the American justice system sort it out.
    • No, your thinking Canadian patent law. This is the US patent system that is being talked about. One we considered merging with and part of the official report that recommended against it described the US Patent System as being a joke. Something completely impractical. I understand there is an obvious clause in the US patent system, but it is so hard to meet that criteria that it basically doesn't exist.

      I can't find the link, but someone trying to prove a point about how bad the US patent system is put in
  • Buy the company (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rangataua (820853)
    I wonder how much it would cost to simply buy 51% of Eolas? If the shares are publicly traded, with 23 companies being sued it might even be possible for them to buy a small share parcel each without too much notice.
    • Buy the company and do what? Sorry but due to various responsibilities, Google, Apple, etc. would more than likely be legally forced to keep the patents and keep trying to sue (Eolas being a patent troll has no real assets other than BS patents) to make the investment worthwhile for its shareholders.
      • Buy the company and do what? Sorry but due to various responsibilities, Google, Apple, etc. would more than likely be legally forced to keep the patents and keep trying to sue (Eolas being a patent troll has no real assets other than BS patents) to make the investment worthwhile for its shareholders.

        If none of them own a controlling share the only reasonable expectations from investors would be the nullification of the mutual threat to their companies.

        Without a controlling share, no individual among the group would be able to wield it unilaterally, and anti-trust law would prevent collusion.

        I think buying them out and replacing the management or liquidating the company would be an excellent idea.

      • by Machtyn (759119)
        They would be the shareholders. It's a hostile takeover, they'd be the majority holders and can vote and direct the company how they wish. Many a public company have been bought with intention to sink it.
    • I wonder how much it would cost to simply buy 51% of Eolas?

      Eolas is one guy (and his investors). Buying him out and settling the lawsuits would cost the same amount.

      • I wonder how much it would cost to simply buy 51% of Eolas?

        Eolas is one guy (and his investors). Buying him out and settling the lawsuits would cost the same amount.

        Last time I checked the going rate for a "sloppy" job was 5k, I think they can spare considerably more than that to make it clean and untraceable.

  • I can't recall the specifics now, but when Eolas sued MS over their other patent in the past, didn't they try to come out as the "good guys" by claiming that they will only pursue patent claims against Big Bad MS, and won't go after alternative browsers?

    • And the people that fell for it are idiots, or at least very naive. People who operate like this are NOT good people. They are not interested in the public good. They are interested in lining their pockets. There's no other reason to try and troll with patents.

      It is one thing if you have a company that really makes products. They may have legit reasons for going forward with a patent case, even if the patent in question is kinda silly (they also may not). After all, they have a real market they are trying t

  • I approve of Eolas in the same way I approve of nuclear weapons; horrible destructive ability that should only be unleashed on the worst possible garbage in the world.
  • Who's next? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mysidia (191772) on Tuesday October 06, 2009 @10:55PM (#29665845)

    Citrix for presentation server & published apps? VMware for their PCOIP? Wyse? X.org?

    It seems like in 7,599,985, they've successfully patented thin-client, VDI, and any remote application control/access/interactive media viewing from an embedded web app....

    The invention allows a program to execute on a remote server or other computers to calculate the viewing transformations and send frame data to the client computer thus providing the user of the client computer with interactive features and allowing the user to have access to greater computing power than may be available at the user's client computer.

    .. Other existing approaches to embedding interactive program objects in documents include the Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) facility in Microsoft Windows, by Microsoft Corp., and OpenDoc, by Apple Computer, Inc. At least one shortcoming of these approaches is that neither is capable of allowing a user to access embedded interactive program objects in distributed hypermedia documents over networks.

  • The problem is with the institution that applied for such a bad patent in the first place: the University of California.

    As a public, educational institution, their patent attorneys should have been responsible enough not to patent a feature that clearly has prior art and is already widely used on the web.

  • "Fucked up" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fadir (522518) on Wednesday October 07, 2009 @02:20AM (#29666925)

    That's all that comes to my mind when I hear the words patent and U.S. in the same sentence. And that doesn't only apply to the IT.
    The whole patent system should be put where it belongs: into the dustbin

How many QA engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 3: 1 to screw it in and 2 to say "I told you so" when it doesn't work.

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