Apple and Google Included in Suit Over Embedded Interactive Media in Browsers

CNET reports that Apple, Google, and twenty other companies have been sued by Eolas Technologies for patent infringement related to the use of browser plug-ins and Ajax to offer interactive content in Web browsers. The move comes several years after the conclusion of a similar lawsuit brought against Microsoft that resulted in an initial $521 million judgment in favor of Eolas, although the suit was eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

Eolas' suit is not to be taken lightly. Although the earlier Microsoft case took many years to resolve, and Eolas by no means won a complete victory, the patent involved did overall withstand heavy legal challenges despite many on the Web rallying to Microsoft's aid. Microsoft and Eolas won't describe terms of their 2007 settlement of the patent case, but Eolas did say it expected to pay its shareholders a 2007 dividend afterward.

The Microsoft suit, as well as the new one targeting Apple and others, focused on a patent held by Eolas stemming from work performed by Eolas founder Michael Doyle while at the University of California, San Francisco. The patent, which covers the use of such technologies as Flash and Java plug-ins, was the subject of intense scrutiny during the trial and was initially overturned by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office before being reinstated and serving as the basis of the judgment against Microsoft.

The new suit also includes the use of Ajax Web development techniques for which Eolas has recently received a second patent as an extension of the original. Defendants in the new suit include Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Blockbuster, Citigroup, eBay, Frito-Lay, Go Daddy, Google, J.C. Penney, JPMorgan Chase, Office Depot, Perot Systems, Playboy Enterprises, Staples, Sun Microsystems, Texas Instruments, Yahoo, and YouTube.

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