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USPTO Reexam Finds $521M Eolas Patent Valid 220

theodp writes "As predicted earlier on Slashdot, looks like the W3C goofed by shutting out the public and asking the Patent Office to base its reexamination of the Eolas Web Plug-In Patent solely on prior art promoted by Microsoft. The USPTO has reaffirmed the validity of the $521M patent, rejecting the W3C's prior art as deficient for not demonstrating the capability of ongoing real-time manipulation and control by the user. The USPTO also considered but rejected the prior art of the Viola Browser, which formed the basis for Microsoft's appellate argument. Ironically, Eolas' defense was bolstered by the arguments of its expert witness, 2005 EFF Pioneer Award Winner Ed Felten."
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USPTO Reexam Finds $521M Eolas Patent Valid

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  • by Wakko Warner ( 324 ) * on Thursday September 29, 2005 @11:46PM (#13682121) Homepage Journal
    I thought everybody worked around the problem in newer browsers, so isn't this just a story about one really rich-again mofo?
    • by Keeper ( 56691 ) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @11:49PM (#13682136)
      Nope. Nobody has deployed a non-infringing solution as of yet. Just about every browser (except maybe lynx) infringes on this.
      • by Unordained ( 262962 ) <unordained_slashdotNOSPAM@csmaster.org> on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:28AM (#13682560)
        Shouldn't that mean that it's a rather obvious solution to practitioners in the field, possibly the only truly reasonable solution? These teams all developed similar solutions independently, without the help of the patent holders, yes? The teams didn't even know about the patent beforehand?

        Maybe, in a few rare cases, patents have spurred development of new, truly innovative, technologies. But, to quote Lyndon Johnson, "You do not examine legislation in the light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in the light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered." I would feel vaguely sorry for the little and truly innovative companies if we took away patents, but not sorry enough.
        • Knowing about the patent is legally irrelevant.

          As you say, this is rather silly in some cases. That's one of the problems with patents.
        • Shouldn't that mean that it's a rather obvious solution to practitioners in the field, possibly the only truly reasonable solution? These teams all developed similar solutions independently, without the help of the patent holders, yes?

          What makes you think they developed their solutions independently? Netscape's plugin architecture was very popular by the time Internet Explorer had ActiveX, and Konqueror duplicated Netscape's interface exactly.

          The teams didn't even know about the patent beforehand

        • Well, if unless they want to license the patent or drop the functionality, it looks like spurred by this patent they will have to come up with some "new, truly innovative, technologies" ;)
    • This website offers nice rebuttals and arguments against software patents or "computer-invented inventions" as they're popularly called by their proponents:

      http://www.nosoftwarepatents.com/en/m/intro/index. html [nosoftwarepatents.com]

      I urge everyone to mail this link to every co-worker and IT-knowledgeable person you know. First, all the geeks must unite, then the knowledge will spread from the knowledgeable to the ignorant.

      A link to /. might even make you more competitive, since you're already wasting time reading it! ;-)

      It is n
  • wtf? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wingman358 ( 912560 ) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @11:46PM (#13682125)
    "...art promoted by Microsoft..." what the heck?
  • Payday (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chill ( 34294 ) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @11:46PM (#13682126) Journal
    Eolas has only 100 shareholders, so not counting legal fees that would mean $5.21 million each. After fees it'll probably be about $49.95 each. :-)

    Still, this is a broad patent and will have serious implications if those 100 start seeing dollar signs. Microsoft could be target #1 and while I've heard rumors of Eolas vowing not to go after FOSS infringers -- like Mozilla -- all bets are off once the greed fever takes hold.

    I wonder if AOL/Time-Warner is a potential target for all their infringing years as owners of Netscape/Mozilla. They have some cash laying around that I'm sure some patent lawyers would like to "liberate".

      -Charles
    • Math error (Score:5, Insightful)

      by lheal ( 86013 ) <lheal1999.yahoo@com> on Friday September 30, 2005 @12:03AM (#13682185) Journal
      Eolas has only 100 shareholders, so not counting legal fees that would mean $5.21 million each.


      That assumes they all have an equal number of shares. I think one guy has a majority, a couple of others have good-sized chunks, and everyone else was optioned in in lieu of salary. There's probably a bank or two involved, and the lawyers will get half anyway.

    • ...I've heard rumors of Eolas vowing not to go after FOSS infringers -- like Mozilla -- ...

      I wonder if that promise is mostly based on the fact that Mozilla/FOSS doesn't have billions in the bank, unlike MS, rather than a love/respect for FOSS. Deep pockets make for more tempting targets after all.

      • Actually, the guy behind Eolas is pretty good to free software - mostly through his involvement in the Tcl community:

        http://wiki.tcl.tk/1935 [wiki.tcl.tk]

        http://wiki.tcl.tk/212 [wiki.tcl.tk]

        So... what can we say? Software patents are still not our friends, but seeing "the little guy" beat up on Microsoft is certainly better than, say, Microsoft holding this pattent and beating up on a little guy.
        • but seeing "the little guy" beat up on Microsoft is certainly better than, say, Microsoft holding this pattent and beating up on a little guy.

          If this patent holds up past the Supreme Court, then Microsoft can BUY any little guy (everyone has a price, and they've got $50,000,000,000 sitting around). Then they'll beat up on all the medium-size guys with it, including Apple, Sun, Linux, AOL, IBM, etc. Hurray!
      • The title of the patent (from the uspto website) is:

        "DISTRIBUTED HYPERMEDIA METHOD FOR AUTOMATICALLY INVOKING EXTERNAL APPLICATION PROVIDING INTERACTION AND DISPLAY OF EMBEDDED OBJECTS WITHIN A HYPERMEDIA DOCUMENT"

        If this covers only one possible method of making plugins, that's one thing. FOSS browsers could simply find a different way of doing it. But if it covers all methods of making a plugin to a web browser, or of embedding apps into a browser, then it could be a problem. The latter one is wha

    • by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug@@@geekazon...com> on Friday September 30, 2005 @12:28AM (#13682263) Homepage
      Forget about the 10 shareholders. The major players in the world of "Intellectual Property" have always been people who create nothing but merely buy rights from others. I don't fear the Eolas shareholders as much as I fear somebody else with a few hundred $million who might buy their rights and start systematically going after people for a few thousand or tens of thousands of dollars a pop. And all the while they'll be making self-righteous proclamations about protecting "their" technology.

      Even if the Eolas claim is valid, it's pretty sad that the government can let somebody sit on something like this for years while other people innovate, and then dive in and claim they own it. This news illustrates the need to place a time limit on "sleeper" patent claims.
      • In one case of "submarine patents", the court ruled them unenforcable. See
        http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=200509131 31027544 [groklaw.net]
        It was, however, a rather extreme case, so I am not sure if the same reasoning would work in Eolas vs. Microsoft
      • by Morgaine ( 4316 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @07:50AM (#13683293)
        Q. "Would an average software developer with an average education and average experience in computing ever need to refer to Eolas' patent on plug-ins, either directly or indirectly, in order to introduce optional functionality into an application?"

        A. "No."

        In fact, no software developer of any standing would need the information allegedly protected by the patent, because it is 100% obvious. And if you don't need the information in a patent, either directly or indirectly, then clearly the patent does not contribute the technical novelty which is allegedly being infringed. It has not offered the claimed item of value to the commonweal through its publication.

        Given the above, nothing else in this case is relevant. Regardless of the form of words on the application, there can be no rational claim of infringement of a protected invention here, because the likelihood that the patent played any part whatsoever in the development of the allegedly infringing products is zero.
    • Re:Payday (Score:5, Informative)

      by Peyna ( 14792 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @12:42AM (#13682299) Homepage
      The University of California owns the patent and licenses it to Eolas. I wouldn't be surprised if UC wasn't helping foot the bill for the litigation and will receive a chunk of the reward as well.
    • Still, this is a broad patent and will have serious implications if those 100 start seeing dollar signs. Microsoft could be target #1 and while I've heard rumors of Eolas vowing not to go after FOSS infringers -- like Mozilla -- all bets are off once the greed fever takes hold.

      Usually for lawsuits like that they go after the money. Mozilla, Opera, and the also rans have precious little money, not enough to sue over. Unless one of them does something to enrage Eolas, I'd imagine MS will be the only targe

    • Re:Payday (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HunterZ ( 20035 )
      "...while I've heard rumors of Eolas vowing not to go after FOSS infringers -- like Mozilla -- all bets are off once the greed fever takes hold."

      Yay, the Patent Office just created a baby SCO!

      Seriously though, there are two things I don't understand about IP patents (actually there are many things am quite ignorant about regarding this subject):

      1. Is there a burden of proof on one side or the other in a patent dispute to show that the alleged infringer copied the idea instead of developing it independently?
      • "Is there a burden of proof on one side or the other in a patent dispute to show that the alleged infringer copied the idea instead of developing it independently?"

        In the case of patents it doesn't matter. If you are coder with a decent amount of experience then there is a 100% probability that you have violated somebodies patent. It doesn't matter matter if you came up with it independently.
      • Re:Payday (Score:2, Insightful)

        1. No burden of proof comes into it. If you've got a patent, anyone who came up with the same idea is SOL, independently or not. Of course, your patent will not be granted (or may be deemed invalid, if it has already been granted) if there exists prior art--proof that someone did the same thing before you filed your application (date of original application is the key here--which is kind of dumb because it can take a year or two for a patent to be granted, which is plenty of time for someone to independentl
        • Anotehr problem with the "date of filing" is that patents can (could? did this change?) be amended. So one path to riches was to file a patent, keep it "in process" until a similar-sounding technology matures and becomes widespread, then amend the patent to cover the by-then common technology, and then sue.

          See "Lemuelson" for the classic example of this kind of parasitic indulgence.
      • Re:Payday (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mavenguy ( 126559 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @06:51AM (#13683177)
        1) As another reply has indicated, independent invention is not, per se, a defense against infringement. Of course, the timing and nature of the various acts leading to the invention by the inventor and the infringer could have an effect on the validity of the patent claims.

        Firstly, if the inventor (that is the person(s) identified as the inventors in the patent) copied the invention from anyone else (the accured infringer or a third party) the patent claims are invalid under 35 USC 102(f) [cornell.edu]. Also, if the the invention was patented or described in a printed publication, or in public use or one sale in the US more than one year prior to the effective filing date of the patent application it is similarly invalid.

        2) The patent, from the day it is issued, can be applied against the acts making, using, and selling of the invention, regardless of when the accused infringer started those acts; liability for infringing, however, can only be assessed for those acts actually occuring on or after the issued date; previous acts don't count. Also, regarding liability, acts more than 6 years prior to filing the infringement case don't count. This, of course, applies only in cases brought relatively late in the life of the patent.

        Additionally, and most important in the case of newly issued patents, the Court can enjoin the infringer from performing further such acts as part of the remedies granted the patentee. This is how, other than the costly assessment of damages, that the patentee can shut down the infringer's actions.

        There is an interesting doctrine I vaguely recall that might be relevant in some circumstances of timing to software patents, that accused infringers might be able to escape liability if they were practicing a method covered by a method claim in a patent; this doctrine is called a "shop right". While searching title 35 (the patent law) I stumbled on 35 USC 273 [cornell.edu] which on a quick glance, seems to express that long held judicial doctrine. Traditionally, this protected a person using a secret method to make something from being shut down due to another getting a patatent on the method, if the the infringer came up with the method prior to the inventor of the patent. Perhaps an IP lawyer can comment on that.
    • A patent is meant to provide a short-term monopoly so that the patent holder can *PRODUCE* his invention without immediately losing out to competitors on publication of the details. It has no other purpose.

      So where is Eolas' product, which this patent is supposed to protect?

      Of course, every man and his dog will point out that the above does not reflect how patents are used in today's world, at least in the US. Well bully for you, that's the hub of the problem, and Eolas is just a symptom.

      W3C should have k
  • I forget (Score:3, Funny)

    by lheal ( 86013 ) <lheal1999.yahoo@com> on Thursday September 29, 2005 @11:47PM (#13682129) Journal
    Are we for Microsoft because we hate software patents or are we for Eolas because we hate Microsoft?

    Congress is too busy worrying about baseball players taking steroids to actually fix the system.

    • by CyricZ ( 887944 ) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @11:52PM (#13682147)
      .. your average Joe and Jill American. At least not directly, as far as they're aware. Baseball does, unfortunately. That is why, as sad as it is, real issues don't get the attention they deserve, while farcery like athletes using steroids does.

    • Re:I forget (Score:5, Informative)

      by pgpckt ( 312866 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @12:37AM (#13682282) Homepage Journal

      Are you serious???? Have you not heard of the Patent Reform Act of 2005, H.R. 2795 ?

      http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:h.r.0 2795 [loc.gov]: ( the bill)

      http://www.ipo.org/template.cfm?Section=Patent_Ref orm1&Template=/TaggedPage/TaggedPageDisplay.cfm&TP LID=196&ContentID=18391&requestTimeout=500 [ipo.org] (everything you could ever possibly want to know)

      This is making major MAJOR changes to patent law (prior use rights, first to file instead of first to invent, creation of public opposition proceedings, publication of all patents, etc, etc, etc.) in 10 or 12 MAJOR areas of patent law.

      And this thing is going to pass. It has wide congressional bipartisan support and the support of the all the major players. And it is a good thing for consumers.

      Yikes, get your facts straight.
      • Re:I forget (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Krach42 ( 227798 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:04AM (#13682518) Homepage Journal
        So, first to file is a *good* thing? Because way I see it, First to File would give Eolas an undeniable clinch.

        Forget prior art. Did they file before you? That's the only thing you have to worry about.

        I don't call that better. Now granted, I'm sure many provisions do benefit consumers, and innovation, but this whole first to file thing is just trying to get rid of red-tape that they have to deal with finding prior art. Now, they just have to look through their records and see if you're the first one to file for it. If you are, congratulations, otherwise, too bad, we'll put you in contact with who you need to to speak to about getting a license to use the technology that you independently developed before them.
        • I realise we are not going to get rid of Patents any time soon . I have my own Ideas for global patent reform though.

          1:They should be on a first to implement basis (real world use of the concept)
          2: They should last for 3-5 years at max (which should be long enough for a company to make money in the market)
          3: they must be specific to a particular process or concept
          4: if patents are not defended as soon as it is reasonably possible to know infringement occurred , then they are lost and enter the public domain
        • Re:I forget (Score:5, Interesting)

          by troc ( 3606 ) <troc @ m a c.com> on Friday September 30, 2005 @02:55AM (#13682643) Homepage Journal
          Erm. No.

          First to file is much better than first to invent. In the case you mention that you invent someting first but someone else files first (both arrived at the same invention independently), your invention would make their invention INVALID as it would be perfectly valid prior art against their invention.

          There's a few complications as regards the way certain countries and regions handle situations like this, but they system, isn't designed to punish you for being slow to file.

          Here in Europe we have situations like this quite frequently where someone will oppose a granted patent using as evidence their own (or other) internal documents (or even product brochures). If it can be shown they genuinely have a point, then the patent could be invalidated or, in rare cases they could get to share the patent.

          First to invent requires HUGE amounts of perfect paperwork at all times and is open to all sorts of fraud.

          Plus, the US is the only major country that doesn't have first-to-file as a basic concept. In fact, that plus opposition boards etc - they are simply copying the European patent office.
          • Re:I forget (Score:3, Informative)

            by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 )
            Here in Europe we have situations like this quite frequently where someone will oppose a granted patent using as evidence their own (or other) internal documents (or even product brochures).

            The prior art must be published in order to count for opposing a patent. So the brochures distributed to potential customers would be useful as prior art, but internal documents will not help.
            Exception in Germany: If you can show you used the patented invention before it was filed (but have not published it), you can ke
          • First to file is much better than first to invent. In the case you mention that you invent someting first but someone else files first (both arrived at the same invention independently), your invention would make their invention INVALID as it would be perfectly valid prior art against their invention.

            First to invent means that little old me can keep the rights to what I invent. Say I invent something, but I have no money and can't afford a patent lawyer to file for me (and I'm not going to give it to Pat
          • In the case you mention that you invent someting first but someone else files first (both arrived at the same invention independently), your invention would make their invention INVALID as it would be perfectly valid prior art against their invention.

            But you have to prove your invention was prior art by showing that you publicised it. "Prior art", under first-to-invent, means anything that existed before your invention. Under first-to-file, though, it's only what the patentee could have known about.

        • Prior art still matters even if the rule becomes "first to file", on the contrary. What it means is that if one publishes something novel in whatever format then it become unpatentable, unless the publication is a patent.
        • first-to-file (Score:3, Interesting)

          by idlake ( 850372 )
          First-to-file doesn't affect prior art. What it means is that if there are two competing patent claims, the first to file wins. That's much saner than the current system.

          If you come up with an idea independently, there is a simple way of protecting yourself from patent claims against you: publish your idea. Making your project open source probably helps, but it is probably also a good idea to write up an explanation and submit it to an archive server or even get it published in a journal.

          Patent law is pr
      • Re:I forget (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kuscheltier ( 752042 )
        *cough* First to file a patent instead of first to invent is NOT a good thing. The patent law needs a reform, but this one goes into the wrong direction. Also, its less the law, then the USPTO being the problem.
    • Congress is too busy worrying about baseball players taking steroids to actually fix the system.

      I found a solution: I just patented One-Click Steroid Injections.
           
    • Don't we me.... (Score:3, Insightful)

      I am against software patents.

      But in a world with software patents, I am all for abusive companies to get a serving of their own medicine.
  • Oh yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lightknight ( 213164 ) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @11:48PM (#13682130) Homepage
    *cue evil laugh* Muahahahaha! Power to the patent (I'm biased, having my own hand in the game)!

    But in all seriousness, this is both a good and bad thing.

    It's a bad thing (in the eyes of most /.ers, OSS, etc.) in respect to the fact that this confirms a broad patent, with all the WMD-type damage that in can incur.

    It's a good thing (again, in the eyes of /.ers) in that this patent is pointed at Microsoft. As MS is quite adept at dishing it out (destroying competition, litigating projects out of existance, etc.), it's nice to see a little fair play. Bonus points because it's the little guy (small inventor) giving it to the big guy (corporation).
    • Re:Oh yes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by craXORjack ( 726120 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @12:22AM (#13682236)
      Maybe its a bad thing it was pointed at Microsoft. By putting up a lame defense, ensuring that Eolas would win, now Microsoft can buy Eolas for a billion or so and use the now affirmed patent against everyone else. I wonder if the patent can be challenged again when it is aimed at someone new by a new owner.
      • The patent can be challenged by every schmoe accused of infringement as long as he hadn't sued or been sued before. This is because the new schmoe did not have his day in court to challenge the patent. (If they make the same arguments as the last schmoe, however, they probably will lose.) Patent holders, however, lose their patents against everyone if they lose only once, since they had their day in court to defend their patent. This difference is why people keep suing firms with patents.
        • The patent can be challenged by every schmoe accused of infringement as long as he hadn't sued or been sued before.

          Well maybe in principle, but none of the schmoes will be able to deploy as effectively again the arguments based on the art cited in the failed re-exam proceeding.

          There is always some tendency for a court to take the view that the questions handled in the re-exam were properly dealt with, and that the statutory presumption of validity of the patent has been strengthened.

          That pushes future dispu
    • Bonus points because it's the little guy (small inventor) giving it to the big guy (corporation).

      Ah yes. Society has always had a love of stories of the little guy (thief) sticking it to the big guy (corporation). And, OK, so I mean, technically the "little guy" here is sticking it to a wide variety of "guys", ranging from big guys to middle-sized guys all the way down to open source developers living in cardboard boxes. But hey, in the process of burning down the internet they caused some fire damage to on
    • Little guy inventor? Didn't Eolas buy this patent off someone else in the first place? Also, as I understand it, Eolas has no stake in the browser market - the patent lies fallow in their hands except for licensing use. If it's true, I don't call that laudable, I call it an abuse of the system.
    • It's a good thing because laws don't change until they hurt the rich and powerful. If MS gets slapped with a dozen such suits and loses all of them for a half a billion they will have lost 6 billion dollars which will not hurt them at all but.... Never mind.

      I was going to say that if MS was hurt enough they might lobby to change the laws but I just realized they would have to lose hundreds of lawsuits before they even noticed. Bill Gates will look under the cushions of his couch and find enough money to pay
  • by Hack Jandy ( 781503 ) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @11:48PM (#13682132) Homepage
    Slashdot EeziPost (TM) MK I

    [ ] Another: [ ] Dupe [ ] Slashvertisment [X] WTF [ ] $editor is a dork

    [X] Frist psot [ ] link to GNAA [ ] Link to goatse [ ] $random_drivel

    [X] I Haven't RTFA, but... $random_opinionated_comment

    [ ] Slashdotted already!. I bet their server runs on $topic_item too

    [ ] Soul_sucking registration required

    [ ] Mod Parent [ ] up [ ] Down

    [X] Fsck: [ ] SCO [X] Micro$oft [ ] DMCA [ ] DRM [ ] MPAA [ ] RIAA [ ] Google [ ] Bush [X] You all

    [ ] I for one welcome our new $topic_item overlords

    [ ] Imagine a beowulf cluster of those

    [X] In Soviet Russia, $topic_item owns you!

    [ ] Meh!

    [ ] Netcraft confirms $topic_item is: [ ] dead [ ] dying

    [ ] But have the inventors thought of what will happen if $random_amateur_insight

    [X] Once again the USA is clamping down on my [X] Amendment rights.

    [ ] You insensitive clod

    [ ] But people who download music from P2P networks are more likely to buy the album

    [ ] Cue DVD Jon-type crack in 3..2..1

    [ ] Torrent, anyone?

    [ ] Here's a link to a patch: $random_linux_distro_url

    [X] Profit!!

    [X] Still no cure for cancer

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 29, 2005 @11:50PM (#13682141)
    Oh great oracle, Slashdot. You are so wise. Your insights in to the future are renowned across the land. I beseech thee, please cast your all knowing eye across my destiny and pray tell me when will I get a girlfriend?
  • But it can get you a nice patent settlement.
  • Hey Eolas! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Chordonblue ( 585047 ) on Thursday September 29, 2005 @11:56PM (#13682165) Journal
    Party in Middle Earth tonight! You're buying!

    Signed,

    Frodo and Gimli

  • Not Ironic (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 30, 2005 @12:22AM (#13682240)
    Ironically, Eolas' defense was bolstered by the arguments of its expert witness, 2005 EFF Pioneer Award Winner Ed Felten."

    Unless I'm missing something, this isn't ironic.

    Irony is a gulf between what you would expect and what happened. This isn't; in fact, it's EXACTLY WHAT YOU WOULD EXPECT.

    You would EXPECT that Eolas's defense would be bolstered by arguments of its witnesses, that's why they are Eolas's witnesses.

    (Now, you may find it ironic that Ed Felten was testifying for them, but that's not what the sentence says.)
  • by SimHacker ( 180785 ) * on Friday September 30, 2005 @12:25AM (#13682249) Homepage Journal

    HyperTIES [umd.edu] is an early hypermedia browser developed under the direction of Dr. Ben Shneiderman at the University of Maryland Human Computer Interaction Lab.

    HyperTIES supported browsing interactive hypermedia including formatted text and scalable PostScript graphics, including interactive software components like applets, pie menus, embedded graphical menus, text and graphics editors, etc, written in the NeWS object oriented dialect of PostScript.

    The HyperTIES hypermedia browser was also integrated with an authoring tool, based on the Unipress Emacs text editor, which could remotely control the browser (so Emacs could navigate the browser and display the content you're editing), and the browser could remotely control Emacs (so you could create hypermedia interfaces with text links and graphical menus that drove Emacs).

    Illustration: HyperTIES Browser (right) and UniPress Emacs Multi Window Text Editor Authoring Tool (left), tab windows and pie menus, running under the NeWS Window System. [donhopkins.com]

    Illustration: HyperTIES Browser NeWS Client/Server Software Architecture. [donhopkins.com]

    Paper: Designing to Facilitate Browsing: A Look Back at the Hyperties Workstation Browser [donhopkins.com]

    By Ben Shneiderman, Catherine Plaisant, Rodrigo Botafogo, Don Hopkins, William Weiland.

    Since browsing hypertext can present a formidable cognitive challenge, user interface design plays a major role in determining acceptability. In the Unix workstation version of Hyperties, a research-oriented prototype, we focussed on design features that facilitate browsing. We first give a general overview of Hyperties and its markup language. Customizable documents can be generated by the conditional text feature that enables dynamic and selective display of text and graphics. In addition we present:

    • an innovative solution to link identification: pop-out graphical buttons of arbitrary shape.
    • application of pie menus to permit low cognitive load actions that reduce the distraction of common actions, such as page turning or window selection.
    • multiple window selection strategies that reduce clutter and housekeeping effort. We preferred piles-of-tiles, in which standard-sized windows were arranged in a consistent pattern on the display and actions could be done rapidly, allowing users to concentrate on the contents.

    [...] Since storyboards are text files, they can be created and edited in any text editor as well as be manipulated by UNIX facilities (spelling checkers, sort, grep, etc...). On our SUN version Unipress Emacs provides a multiple windows, menus and programming environment to author a database. Graphics tools are launched from Emacs to create or edit the graphic components and target tools are available to mark the shape of each selectable graphic element. The authoring tool checks the links and verifies the syntax of the article markup. It also allows the author to preview the database by easily following links from Emacs buffer to buffer. Author and browser can also be run concurrently for final editing.

    [...] Implications of Graphics in Hypertext
    Hyperties incorporates graphics while preserving the embedded menu approach used for textonly documents. A displayed page can mix text and graphics while allowing arbitrarily-shaped regions to be designated as targets, which provide links to other articles. The addition of graphics provides significant advantages (14). Information that is structured in the form of charts, graphs, maps, and images may be explored with the same facility as text. But the use of graphics in hypertext requires more work on the part of the author to produce comprehensible documents. There is no simple technique for emphasizing the targets that is acceptable in all cases, and the author

  • Software patents are so incredibly awful for new entrants that I just cannot get excited about this.

    Sure, I hate -- HATE -- Microsoft with a passion. But the existing patent system will only help them.
  • Premature panic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 1ucius ( 697592 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @01:09AM (#13682379)
    Just because the USPTO reissues the patent doesn't mean that it has the same scope as the original. The new art may have forced Eolas to narrow the claims so much that they are not relevant anymore (or maybe not). My point is that we still don't know anything important.
  • The examiner deciding the reexamination made a classic error. Patent claims are supposed to define what is "covered" by the patent, and what is not. So, if you describe a granite wheel mounted on a oak axle, your claim should say whether your patent covers the wheel itself, or merely a granite-on-oak wheel. The examiner in this case bought the patentee's argument that "interactive processing" really means "ongoing real-time manipulation and control by the user". Now, if the patentee had wanted to claim
  • by idlake ( 850372 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @03:03AM (#13682664)
    If the patent only covers applets, Flash, plug-ins, and ActiveX, then it probably doesn't matter anymore: they are not being used for much that is important anymore, and anything that eliminates these from the web is a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

    That doesn't change the fact, of course, that the patent is stupid and has prior art., it's just that in this case, the incorrect decision may not have a lot of serious consequences.
    • Not sure but if it covers Flash, why not Javascript and AJAX apps? That's the scary bit.

      • I may recall the patent completely wrong, but I think it specifically talks about extending browser functionality by embedding external applications or plug-ins. If the functionality is fixed and built-in, then the patent may not apply. I suspect that it is hair splitting like that that let the patent survive reexamination, but that also means that it needs to be interpreted narrowly.
      • by idlake ( 850372 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @06:08AM (#13683088)
        I looked it up again. The patent is entitled "Distributed hypermedia method for automatically invoking external application providing interaction and display of embedded objects within a hypermedia document", and that's the way the claims seem to read, too.

        So, invoking external applications that don't embed, or invoking built-in functionality, would seem to be OK. I believe this means invoking a built-in MPEG4 player would be fine, as would be Javascript/SVG animation. Furthermore, both of those do have clear prior art and probably weren't addressed in this lawsuit.

        You can read the patent [uspto.gov] yourself.
    • If the patent only covers applets, Flash, plug-ins, and ActiveX, then it probably doesn't matter anymore: they are not being used for much that is important anymore, and anything that eliminates these from the web is a good thing as far as I'm concerned.

      Without ActiveX, GMail would not exist, and consequently the current popularity of AJAX would not exist either. You see, on Internet Explorer, XMLHttpRequest is an ActiveX object. You think Google would have launched GMail without Internet Explorer s

  • by timmarhy ( 659436 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @03:32AM (#13682733)
    is it just me or does eolas remind you of ebola? a highly infectous virus that rips the guts out of all bodies it infects, and produces nothing useful just kills everything.
  • by FlorianMueller ( 801981 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @04:34AM (#13682868) Homepage
    Bad news:
    • Don't let us gloat over the damage to Microsoft. The Eolas patent is a threat to large parts of the Internet as we know it.
    • Eolas' success will encourage investments in industrialized deep-pocket patent trolls by venture capitalists, corporations, and high net-worth individuals. Look at this Goldman Sachs venture here, for an example: www.ipvalue.com [ipvalue.com]
    • The Eolas case will be used as a key argument of the IT industry to support that Patent Reform Bill in US Congress, a piece of legislation that would limit the damage an Eolas can cause to a Microsoft while giving the large players ever more advantages and disadvantaging the defensive power of open-source projects and smaller companies.

    Good news:

    • Microsoft backed virtually any pro-patent lobbying entity in Europe (ACT, CompTIA, Campaign for Creativity, EICTA, BSA, and numerous local ones). A dozen Eolas-like cases down the road, they may reconsider their stance.
    • As a representative of the anti-software patent movement in Europe, I've been nominated by a jury for the Europeans of the Year award [zdnet.co.uk], which is sponsored by Microsoft. It's a public Internet poll in which I might even win, either in the EU Campaigner of the Year [ev50.com] or the overall European of the Year [ev50.com] category, and I've already vowed to give the prize money to the FFII [ffii.org], which fights against software patents. If you feel like supporting this Microsoft money to anti-patent group effort, please vote [ev50.com] for me there in both categories (Campaigner and the long overall list at the end). Don't have to be European for that. Thanks. End of campaign message :-)
    • Just voted for you. But any thoughts on who else to vote for in the other categories? I'm sure lots of people would like to avoid voting for any pro-patent people in the other categories, or reward any other candidates that have been supportive of the anti-software patent movement.

      For instance, Charlie McGreevy is nominated in the "Commissioner of the year" category, and as far as I remember he's one of the people that have tried hard to push the pro-patent agenda - but I have no idea if any of the other

      • Thanks for your vote! You're right that we have to publish a complete set of voting recommendations. That will happen next week.

        Let me publish some recommendations here now:

        • Commissioner: Dalia Grybauskaite, Budget. All others have ties to pro-patent forces, especially McCreevy was remote-controlled by Microsoft.
        • MEP: You're right, Rocard is the way to go.
        • Statesman: Zapatero is best because his government was the only one to cast a No vote against the EU Council's proposal for software patents (others
    • Don't let us gloat over the damage to Microsoft. The Eolas patent is a threat to large parts of the Internet as we know it.

      No, the Eolas patent is a threat specifically to embedded, external appliations, because that's what it covers. That means for "the Internet as we know it", ActiveX, embedded media players, embedded PDF viewers, and embedded Flash players. If all of those go, as well as the ability of companies like Microsoft to fragment the web by creating Windows-specific plug-ins, I think that's go
  • not worried (Score:3, Interesting)

    by e**(i pi)-1 ( 462311 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @06:16AM (#13683104) Homepage Journal
    I'm not so worried because
    • If the patent gets enforced, browsers can not display a plug-in directly but must use external applications. Users have to go through an additional step, each time a website uses a plug-in. Many get annoyed. Browsers like Firefox or Konqueror can no more be distributed in which plug-ins are workable, but each user with access to the source code can remove the restriction flag and recompile the application and the plug-in. Plug-in creators will always distribute the source code of the plug-in, where the Eola flag can be removed.
    • It can be of advantage to open an external application instead of using a plug-in. I personally prefer for example to see Real video content in the external player, where I can resize the application, and where things usually work. Also flash content could by default be shown in an external player.
    • The patent says: "...execute an embedded program object. The program object is embedded into a hypermedia document much like data objects." What is embedded? I could imagine to display content in an other application in such a way that the user can not distinguish it from a real plug-in, but where technically, the application is not "embedded in the document" but runs in a second window, with dimensions and locations coordinated by the browser. The user does not notice a difference.
  • This is GOOD! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 10Ghz ( 453478 ) on Friday September 30, 2005 @06:21AM (#13683115)
    No, not because we hate Microsoft or something. But cases like this might, just might make someone else besides geeks and techies think "you know, maybe these software-patents aren't such a good idea after all?"
  • Microsoft wants this patent to remain valid. The judgment is NOTHING compared to the boatload of money it's sitting on. Microsoft has willingly lost FOUR BILLION on the Xbox. Don't you think they'd be willing to give a paltry 500 million to control a key browser patent?

    Microsoft will simply obtain an exclusive license to the patent locking out all other browsers.
  • After reading the patent.. SEVERAL times.. I've come to the conclusion that this patent covers every browser on the face of the earth.

        Hell, it covers HTTP!

        The idea of interacting with an object embedded within a hypertext document could cover something as rudimentary as right clicking on an image..

        HOW in GODS NAME could the patent office GRANT this short of stuff?

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