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Eolas Sues World + Dog For AJAX Patent 647

Posted by kdawson
from the to-fix-patent-system-replace-judges-in-tyler-texas dept.
helfrich9000 writes "Eolas has filed suit against 23 companies (guess where), including Adobe, Amazon.com, Apple, eBay, Google, Yahoo!, JPMorgan, and Playboy. At issue are a pair of patents (US 7,599,985 and US 5,838,906), one of which (the '906) was successfully used in litigation against Microsoft Corp for a $565 million judgement. Says Dr. Michael D. Doyle, chairman of Eolas, 'We developed these technologies over 15 years ago and demonstrated them widely, years before the marketplace had heard of interactive applications embedded in Web pages tapping into powerful remote resources. Profiting from someone else's innovation without payment is fundamentally unfair. All we want is what's fair.'"
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Eolas Sues World + Dog For AJAX Patent

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  • laughable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by drDugan (219551) * on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:03PM (#30438492) Homepage

    Profiting from someone else's innovation without payment is fundamentally unfair. All we want is what's fair.

    There is ridiculous dishonesty in this assertion.

    Of course profiting off someone else's work is unfair. Nothing about what the litigant or the defendants have done or will do relates in any way with "fair". If the world were "fair" every single human would have as an inalienable right free access to decent food, housing, healthcare, and security and working beyond that would be an optional choice to better their life. Humanity is far, far from this ideal, and everything we do now in the business world is *nothing* about fair, it is about power and capital, and having long chains of other humans working for the profit of those few who have learned how to escape or work the system. Remember more than half of your planet's population still farms their food by hand, and dies in large numbers when there are droughts.

    "Profiting from someone else's innovation" is at the very basic essence of working capitalism. It an the assumption driving nearly all investment. Using capital to buy a stock, and having that stock rise in value, has the effect of making a profit off the wealth creation and innovation in that company. I don't take a position for or against that system it is highly efficient, when it works, at allocating resources and creating significant development.

    But even beyond the nature of business and profit, these folks have gone down into the depths of corporate IP litigation, where the idealistic light of "fair" shines like smelly dirt. Lawsuits rarely have much to do with a high notion of justice; they are what you can pay for, and what you can win. To assert that ones actions are about "fair" when filing a corporate IP litigation lawsuit is patently absurd and frankly laughable.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheLink (130905)
      > > Profiting from someone else's innovation without payment is fundamentally unfair. All we want is what's fair.

      > There is ridiculous dishonesty in this assertion.

      I bet they didn't pay Tim Berners-Lee anything ;).
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by larry bagina (561269)
      free access to decent food, housing, healthcare, and security

      You're more than welcome to grow your own food, build your own shelter and live healthy. Or is it only "fair" if someone else is forced to provide those things for you?

      • Re:laughable (Score:4, Insightful)

        by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:20PM (#30439870)
        Are you out of your mind? How am I supposed to build a comfortable lean-to next to a fairy tale garden full of fresh vegetables in your la-la-land if I can't afford an acre of it, there are no jobs anywhere, nobody else can afford anything I might try to sell, and pollen carrying Monsanto's patented gene keeps blowing around?
    • Re:laughable (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Cerium (948827) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @04:03AM (#30441440) Homepage

      Dear Slashdot:
      How do you mod an entire thread off-topic? :(

  • by Locutus (9039) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:07PM (#30438530)
    then the 17 years of protection by the patents is pretty much over. And if they published this information before they filed the patent then it's now in public domain anyways.

    LoB
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      And if they published this information before they filed the patent then it's now in public domain anyways. LoB

      I believe in the US you are allowed to file one year after you publish. In Europe I believe this is not the case

    • then the 17 years of protection by the patents is pretty much over.

      Don't worry. They've taken that into account and will now only pretty much sue the pants off those companies.

      And if they published this information before they filed the patent then it's now in public domain anyways.

      In some jurisdictions. From BitLaw [bitlaw.com]:

      One of the most important lessons to learn from this requirement is that there is a one year period after the first pbulic [sic] dislcosure or offer for sale of an invention during which a patent application must be filed. [...] Although the United States grants the one year grace period described in the last two rules above, most other countries do not grant such a period.

    • by Dachannien (617929) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:36PM (#30438862)

      The earlier patent gets 17 years from the date of issue, which was in 1998 (so it expires in 2015 as long as they pay their maintenance fees), because it was filed before June 8, 1995 and gets the longer of 17 years from issue or 20 years from filing.

      Ironically, the later-filed patent gets 20 years from the earliest date of filing, i.e., the date at which the earlier-filed application was filed (because the later-filed patent is a continuation of a continuation of the earlier-filed patent), which means it expires in 2014.

      Of course, the later-filed patent has a patent term adjustment of about four years, so it actually expires in 2018.

      I hope this clears things up for you. ;)

    • by Zordak (123132) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:41PM (#30439516) Homepage Journal
      I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that if there were something as obvious as the patent freakin' expired already or there was an obvious bar date, Microsoft's lawyers probably would have picked up on it. In fact, I'm betting that before Microsoft payed half a billion dollars to settle the suit, they probably scoured the world for invalidating prior art. If there's any good prior art to use against these patents, it's not likely to be something that the Slashdot Army of Armchair Lawyers is going to come up with off the top of their heads. It's more likely to be some thesis published by the University of Zimbabwe with exactly one copy sitting in their library just waiting to be discovered.

      As always, I don't represent you and this post is not legal advice, and does not represent the views or opinions of my firm, or its partners, yadda yadda.

  • More power to 'em (Score:3, Insightful)

    by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:11PM (#30438580) Homepage Journal
    Given that the defendants are also ridiculously litigious about software patents, I say more power to Eolas. I think the whole idea of software patents is absurd anyway but if there is going to be pain suffered by anyone then it needs to be suffered by all. Adobe, Amazon.com, Apple, eBay, Google, Yahoo!, JPMorgan, and Playboy are all probably really saddened by the fact that they didn't come up with this themselves quicker.
    • by meerling (1487879) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:21PM (#30438714)
      It is not reasonable to allow spurious or unfounded litigations simply because the target does so themselves.
      That would set a very bad precedent.

      Now as to this case, I have no idea if it's a load of b.s. since I can't seem to get the article to load.
      Maybe it got slashdotted. :)

      Personally, I'm sick of the software patent scams, just slap them back to copyrights like it used to be.
      As long as we're wishing for things, eliminate business patents also.
    • by thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [esidarap.cram]> on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:31PM (#30438806) Homepage Journal

      Given that the defendants are also ridiculously litigious about software patents,

      Every case like this that is lost by the defendants serves to further legitimize this type of patent. If they win this, any project using Ajax is at risk, including many popular FOSS forum and CMS packages. So you'll pardon me if I'm less than enthusiastic about this, regardless of who is defending.

      • by smallfries (601545) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:38PM (#30439484) Homepage

        The use of asynchronous communication with the server is one of the sub-claims. The actual "invention" that they filed is a browser that can download programs, and run them in such a way that the program can communicate with the browser for I/O. That is AJAX, but also Javascript in general. It's also any Java applet, Flash applet or in fact, any applet of any kind.

        They claim that they have invented the idea of executable applets, in any language or implementation. And after the Microsoft victory their legal position looks quite strong. I would assume that the only way the targets in this round can beat this is by tying the suits together and trying to get the patents dismissed on the grounds that they are overly broad.

        There was no specific invention in the patent - but they stumbled onto a very general idea that is the basis for the entire internet 15 years later. The argument needs to be along the lines that no one company should be allowed to own a patent on technology that it actually took the entire industry 15 years to develop.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Shakrai (717556)

      Adobe, Amazon.com, Apple, eBay, Google, Yahoo!, JPMorgan, and Playboy are all probably really saddened by the fact that they didn't come up with this themselves quicker.

      I'm not going to stand by and let you insult Playboy by lumping them in with the likes of Adobe, Apple and JPMorgan ;)

  • by gzipped_tar (1151931) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:21PM (#30438708) Journal
    ... otherwise we could have had a chance of removing this godawful AJAX UI for good.
  • Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dissy (172727) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:25PM (#30438752)

    'We developed these technologies over 15 years ago and demonstrated them widely, years before the marketplace had heard of interactive applications embedded in Web pages tapping into powerful remote resources.

    Bullshit

    Show me the web site that you made providing an interactive web app back in 1994, only one year after the web was even invented.

    Don't have one? No one did? Thought as much...

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by kseise (1012927)
      It was hosted on Geocities, otherwise they would be able to show you. Trust them.
  • Open Source (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tsotha (720379) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:30PM (#30438798)
    From my perspective, one of the key advantages to open source software is it will make busting these kinds of patents a whole lot easier. There's almost certainly prior art somewhere for nearly every software patent on the books, but it's all in unsearchable proprietary code that may or may not have been deleted years ago. As more code gets added to sourceforge and other repositories it's going to get a lot easier to say "Hey, this thing you patented was done twenty years ago in an obscure open source project nobody uses anymore. And I can prove it."
  • Already reported (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stan Vassilev (939229) on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:34PM (#30438834)

    http://yro.slashdot.org/story/09/10/06/2055214/Eolas-To-Sue-Apple-Google-and-21-Others?from=rss [slashdot.org]

    What I wonder is, we've had little information since. Reactions from the companies involved in the suit? I only heard that GoDaddy released a statement "We're not guilty and we'll defend ourselves vigorously". The other companies have withheld comment.

  • by presidenteloco (659168) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:15PM (#30439274)

    A couple of months after Mosaic browser was publicised.

    Does that count?

    It used a tcl/tk app to draw vector topographic maps. The tcl/tk app
    commanded the mosaic browser to fetch data for the map, and to
    display accompanying text info in its browser window, changing the
    text depending on clicks in different locations on the map.

    It seemed f'ing obvious at the time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Azureflare (645778)
      They're trying to patent client/server communications, except over the internet! It's a painfully obvious approach and their patent should (idealistically) not hold water, due to it being completely obvious. You might try submitting your app as evidence in one of the big suits to revoke their patent. We're all interested parties here, and really anything that can be done to eliminate this obvious patent troll would be fighting The Good Fight IMO.

      Who knows, maybe the judges in these cases will see the lig
    • by Nkwe (604125)
      Animated GIF? Web page executes in a browser causing the browser to perform additional I/O (the IMG SRC tag) to the server to retrieve an application (the GIF file) and executes it. (Animated GIF files contain a "program" of sorts that specify what images to decompress in what order and how long to display them.) How long has GIF been around?
  • by webdog314 (960286) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:29PM (#30439402)
    ... for the last 15 years and didn't notice that, well, every damn company on the web was violating their patent. You should only be able to claim damages from the time you file a suit. Sorry you waited until now to get off your asses and do something about it.
  • by naasking (94116) <naasking @ g m a il.com> on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:14PM (#30439810) Homepage

    While I'm partly satisfied that each of these companies is now paying for their short-sighted support of software patents, any legitimacy to software patents is bad for the industry as a whole. Sadly, this example wil most likely lead these companies to shore up their own patent defenses rather than realize the error of their ways.

  • by zjbs14 (549864) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @12:17AM (#30440254) Homepage

    You know, HyperCard? The program that in 1986 allowed you to "embed external content in a hypermedia document". Eight years before you filed this patent.

    In the late 80's did a photo/video search interface in HyperCard that pulled visual content from an external database program (4D), as well as interacting with a full-text index apllication over a network running on a PC.

    Hear's to hoping that Apple spanks them by filing for a re-examination of their patent.

  • by TodLiebeck (633704) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @12:38AM (#30440370) Homepage

    I made a webapp in early 2001 that used both AJAX (with a hidden frame for client-server communication, rather than an XHR) and a Java applet. It was used to create presentations from within a web browser. The Java applet was used for laying out a presentation slide, providing the user with the capability to create/position elements of the presentation (text, images, and so forth). The app was operational more than a year before the filing date of US7599985.

    The application made use of Netscape's LiveConnect (an old Java/JavaScript communication API) to do this. LiveConnect was introduced in 1997, with Netscape 4. As far as I can see, LiveConnect was designed to enable what this patent claims to invent.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LiveConnect [wikipedia.org] and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Netscape_Navigator [wikipedia.org]

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd@bandrowsky.gmail@com> on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @12:53AM (#30440464) Homepage Journal

    AJAX is just client server fancied up a little bit. There's no real difference architecturally between a 1985 FoxPro application and a 2008 AJAX application, except that the AJAX application will be slower but scale to a million users and have prettier fonts and worse reporting.

  • 15 years (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @01:41AM (#30440812)

    >>> We developed these technologies over 15 years ago .... Profiting from someone else's innovation without payment is fundamentally unfair... All we want is what's fair.'"

    15 years is too long for a software patent to last. Eolas had more than enough opportunity in that time to capitalise and recover R&D costs on any software technology by making a real product. Eolas didn't ever do anything using this technology so is provably just patent trolling.

    Whats fair is that the patent office should remove patent rights from owners not actively developing or marketing provably available products within a certain time period, otherwise they're just allowing troll companies to hold the whole tech world back from developing.

  • Patent US5838906 [boliven.com]

    Abstract:

    "A system allowing a user of a browser program on a computer connected to an open distributed hypermedia system to access and execute an embedded program object. The program object is embedded into a hypermedia document much like data objects. The user may select the program object from the screen. Once selected the program object executes on the user's (client) computer or may execute on a remote server or additional remote computers in a distributed processing arrangement. After launching the program object, the user is able to interact with the object as the invention provides for ongoing interprocess communication between the application object (program) and the browser program. One application of the embedded program object allows a user to view large and complex multi-dimensional objects from within the browser's window. The user can manipulate a control panel to change the viewpoint used to view the image. 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."

    In other words, the patent is on the entire concept of embedding objects in a browser. I think this illustrates perfectly some of the faults of software patents: 1) It is a concept for an invention, not an actual invention; 2) It is a re-statement of general practices and patterns (remote procedure call; client/server; interactive user interface) that only looks new because it is being re-applied to another technology (browsers, in this case); 3) It is over-broad in scope, covering not a particular invention but an entire class of inventions; 4) It is general in execution, not requiring any specific device or implementation.

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