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Texas Co Takes On 23 Corp Titans Over Web Browser Technology

Scott Morrison
Tuesday, October 6, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO (Dow Jones)--A small Texas company on Tuesday filed a patent infringement lawsuit targeting 23 corporate behemoths that use interactive technologies on their Web sites, including high-tech giants such as Apple Inc. (AAPL), Google Inc. (GOOG) and Inc. (AMZN)

The plaintiff - Tyler, Texas-based Eolas Technologies Inc. - is best-known for securing a settlement from Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) in 2007 following a long legal battle in which the tiny company alleged the software giant had violated the same patent at issue in the latest lawsuit.

The latest lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions to keep defendants, which cut across industries to include Citigroup Inc. (C), Blockbuster Inc. (BBI) and J.C. Penny Co. Inc. (JCP), from using technology covered by two Eolas patents. The lawsuit also seeks undisclosed damages.

The patent that was the subject of the litigation against Microsoft enables Web browsers to act as platforms for fully interactive embedded applications. Eolas said in a statement that the patent was granted in November 1998 and twice reaffirmed by the patent office, most recently in February.

A federal court awarded Eolas with a $565 million judgment against Microsoft in 2004. Parts of the Microsoft decision were reversed in 2005, but the software giant ultimately reached a settlement with Eolas before a retrial was set to begin in 2007. Terms of the settlement weren't disclosed.

During the dispute with Microsoft, Eolas' opponents feared that a victory by the small company would crimp the future of the Internet by limiting the use of interactive Web technologies.

The technology at issue was developed by Eolas Chairman Michael Doyle, while he was at the University of California at San Francisco in the 1990s. The University still owns the patent, but Eolas said it is the exclusive licensee.

Eolas said a second patent, issued this month, allows Web sites to add fully interactive embedded applications to their online offerings through the use of plug-in and AJAX (asynchronous JavaScript and XML) Web development techniques.

Mike McKool, attorney for Eolas, said the patents "describe methods for the use of browser add-ons and plug-ins, which enable the interactive use of the Internet."

Other defendants include Adobe Systems Inc. (ADBE), eBay Inc. (EBAY), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Office Depot Inc. (ODP), Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN) and Yahoo Inc. (YHOO)

Apple and Amazon declined to comment. Google, eBay and Yahoo weren't immediately available for comment.

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