The World Wide Web Consortium is seeking a re-examination of a Web browser patent that it says threatens to undermine the operation of the Web.
The patent is at the heart of a legal wrangle between Eolas Technologies, which holds a license to it from the University of California, and Microsoft. In August, Microsoft lost a $521 million patent infringement jury verdict in the case.
Last week, W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee sent a letter to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office formally requesting a re-examination of the patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,838,906. The Web standards group claims it is invalid because existing technologies were not considered at the time the patent was granted in 1998.
“A patent whose validity is demonstrably in doubt ought not be allowed to undo years of work that have gone into building the Web,” Berners-Lee wrote.
If the patent is enforced, Web and software developers will be forced to modify Web pages and applications at a considerable expense, and millions of Web pages that are no longer being actively maintained but that have historical significance could be broken because no one is responsible for covering the cost of changing them, Berners-Lee wrote.