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Technology firm's plug-in and app patent claims invalid, US court rules

Out-Law News | 10 Feb 2012 | 12:46 pm | 1 min. read

A US technology company that claimed major internet companies owed it hundreds of millions of dollars for infringing its patents rights has had its cases against the companies cancelled after a US court ruled its patents are invalid.

Eolas Technologies had sued Google, Yahoo! and a host of other online companies claiming that it was owed royalties from them for their use of technology it owned patent rights for. Eolas registered patents that enable the operation of interactive technologies that are embedded in web pages, but a US court has now ruled that the patents are invalid. Imminent lawsuits that Eolas was due to bring against the companies have been cancelled as a result. The company was seeking more than $600 million in damages from the companies over the claimed infringement, according to a report by technology news website Wired.

In a US federal court ruling in Texas an eight-man jury rejected Eolas' claimed ownership of the technology ruling that the company's patents were invalid, according to a the Wired report. Eolas' opponents, which included the founder of the internet Tim Berners-Lee, had claimed the company's patents were falsely based on existing inventions," according to a report by The Register.

Inventions must primarily be new, take an inventive step that is not obvious and be useful to industry to qualify for patent protection.

The ruling means Eolas cannot assert rights over the use of in-browser applications and plug-ins - common features on most websites. Plug-ins are programmes written by third-party developers that provide extra functionality to a web browser, such as by blocking pop-ups from appearing on screen or allowing users to interact with their email or social media accounts at a glance. In-browser applications include streaming video content embedded in web pages.

Many of the companies Eolas had sued had settled the dispute out of court, including Apple and eBay, whilst the technology firm had previously won $565 million in settling a patent dispute with Microsoft.

 “Yahoo is pleased with the outcome of the case and the jury’s decision, and we thank the jury for their time and commitment to this case. Yahoo respects intellectual property and will continue to protect its freedom to operate by defending itself against meritless claims,” a Yahoo spokesperson said after the ruling, according to the Wired's report.

A spokesman for Google said the company was "pleased" with the jury's decision and that it "affirms our assertion that the claims are without merit," the report said.