Eolas Says Browser Patent Fight Isnt Over Yet

Disputing online reports that Microsoft and the W3C have won a round in the tussle over basic browser technology, Eolas says its claims to the patent are valid.

Despite reports saying that Microsoft and the W3C have Eolas Technologies on the ropes in their patent battle over basic browser technology, Eolas sounded an upbeat note Thursday.

The companys lawyers on Thursday received an "office action" from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and they say the notice may have only reset the clock on the IP (intellectual property) fight.

Chicago-based Eolas Inc. holds a license to the patent, No. 5,838,906, from the University of California at Berkeley. Last year, it won a $521 million jury verdict against Microsoft Corp. in its patent-infringement case. Microsoft has since appealed the verdict.

According to patent office spokeswoman Brigid Quinn, Eolas on Monday was mailed an "office action" on the re-examination of the disputed patent. A number of online reports said the patent office examiner decided to reject the 10 claims presented by Eolas.

But Eolas attorney Martin Lueck, of Minneapolis-based Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP, said the examiner had accepted a number of Eolas arguments and had withdrawn his previous finding from February.

Lueck said the patent office examiner had issued a new action—based on yet another piece of "prior art"—to reject the patents claims. The prior-art piece was outside the examples offered by the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), which brought the prior-art question to the attention of the patent office in November 2003.

Prior art is a legal term referring to whether an invention existed prior to the filing of a patent. But this "piece of art" was not addressed in the February action, he said, hence the reversal.

"Were back to square one," Lueck said. Eolas responded to the February ruling in May by saying, "The university and Eolas will be responding to this office action. And we will show that this prior art doesnt make our claims invalid, either."

The patent in question has a long and contentious history. Issued in 1998 to UC Berkeley, it covers the fundamental method for embedding and invoking interactive applications in all browsers.

Next Page: "Eolas is attacking HTML itself," the W3Cs CEO says.