Eolas Founder: Browser Victory Shouldnt Alter HTML

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2003-09-29 Print this article Print

Q&A: Michael Doyle says a $521 million win in a patent-infringement lawsuit against Microsoft won't restrict development; instead, it's a blow in favor of greater browser competition.

To Michael Doyle, the recent victory for his company, Eolas Technologies Inc., against Microsoft Corp. in a Web browser patent-infringement lawsuit shouldnt be leading to a re-examination of anything more than Microsoft itself. Doyle, who founded the Chicago company, disagrees with the World Wide Web Consortiums move on Tuesday to create an advisory group to consider whether the $521 million jury verdict in the case will require changes to HTML. Instead, he says Microsoft should settle the case, and the Web community should encourage the software giant to do so. In an interview with eWEEK.com reporter Matt Hicks, Doyle shared his opinions on the largely negative reaction to the patent verdict and explained his intentions behind the patent technology, the lawsuit and licensing.
eWEEK.com: What is your overall response to the W3Cs step? Was that something you had expected? Had you ever really expected HTML being affected by your patent?
Doyle: Our basic position is that we would like to see the technology continue to be used, and we would like to see Microsoft buy a paid-up license. ... Microsoft could settle this case today with a fully paid-up license, and that would defuse the issue for everybody. eWEEK.com: Has Microsoft even been willing to discuss a settlement, or have you brought that up with them? Doyle: I cant go into specific discussions, but clearly that balls in their court right now. (Editors note: Microsoft officials have repeatedly said that the patent case has no merit and, therefore, the company will not consider licensing the technology. Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft plans to appeal the verdict.) eWEEK.com: If Microsoft were actually to settle and pay up for a license, how would that necessarily defuse issues of whether HTML, for instance, calls out embedded applications, or if other browsers do the same thing? Doyle: In general, were willing to license the technology on fair and reasonable terms. Were interested in talking with whoever would like to discuss their products with us, and I think the main reason this has become an issue is because MS has made statements about removing the technology from their browser, which therefore removes it from most desktops. … The discussions that have happened have been driven by Microsofts attempt to avoid royalties rather than the best interests of Web users or especially rather than the best interests of Microsofts own competitors. eWEEK.com: Are you and your company making any efforts to reach out to other browser companies or other manufacturers of software that might play a role with this patent to discuss what actual licensing terms might be? Is there an actual program for doing this? Doyle: I cant discuss any specific discussions were having, but in general were open to talking to anybody whod like to discuss the use of this technology. eWEEK.com: Can you say whether youve actually had any of those discussions so far? Doyle: Yes, were currently having discussions of that nature, but I cant mention [with whom] or what. … eWEEK.com: Obviously, when theres a software product, theres usually a set of formal terms for licensing. Has that come to be yet? Doyle: ... We have some general guidelines that were working on. Our objective is to increase competition in the industry in this space and broaden the market for people that want to develop applications to run on the browser Web platform. Next page: What inspired Eolas campaign?

Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for eWEEK.com, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for eWEEK.com. Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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