THE EOLAS LAWSUIT: a future nightmare for IE users?
Eolas stands for "Embedded Objects Links Across Systems". A patent (US5838906) is owned by the University of California, and licensed to Eolas Technologies Inc. The patent is described at the URL below:
Eolas Technologies sued Microsoft for breach of the above patent. Put very simply, they said that if a web page in IE loads certain interactive applications without prompting, then it breached their patent. Microsoft lost the suit (worth $520 million).
An interesting history is here - very out of date, but still useful:
Affected applications included java applets (Sun and MS), Macromedia Flash, Quicktime, Real Networks RealOne, Acrobat Reader and Media Player.
Microsoft planned changes to their browser to address the patent problem, but the preliminary effect was BAD!!! Thankfully, the changes were not rolled out.
Update 5 March 2004
The US Patent Office has nullified the EOLAS patent, but has 60 days to appeal.
Update 19 August 2004
Microsoft has another win, with the Patent Office rejecting all 10 patent claims under review
Update 11 March 2004
The EOLAS patent has been invalidated! YAY!!! Note - this is a 'preliminary' ruling; things could still go wrong, but hopefully sanity will continue to prevail.
25 November 2003
In what is a VERY rare move, the Deputy Patent Commissioner of the US Patent and TradeMark Office, Stephen G Kunin has ordered the agency's examiners to reconsider the patent awarded to the University of California back in 1998. This has only happened 151 times in the last 22 years!!! Considering about 180,000 patents are awarded each year, that's pretty long odds. It will take at least a year for a decision to be made, so don't hold your breath waiting for a result <sigh>
WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA SUCCEEDED
Millions of web pages would have had to be changed to avoid the ok button.
Providers quickly issued advisories:
http://www.macromedia.com/devnet/activecontent/articles/devletter.html (updated after Microsoft announced it would not release an update to avoid infringing on the now defunct Eolas patent)
http://developer.apple.com/internet/ieembedfix.html (not yet updated)
Let's be honest. There must be MILLIONS of pages out in the wilds of the internet that use Flash, or Java, or RealPlayer, or Acrobat etc. It will take TIME for all of those sites all over the world to adjust to the changes. Until that happens, we will be stuck clicking an ok button. So I say PLEASE Microsoft, change the prompt to include a 'do not download content' option.
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Last updated Sunday, August 20, 2006