Microsoft Details Changes to Internet Explorer in Wake of Eolas Suit, Mozilla Foundation Issues Statement
Tuesday October 7th, 2003
In August, Microsoft lost a patent infringement lawsuit filed by Eolas Technologies Inc., a spinoff of the University of California. The jury in the case decided that Microsoft's support for ActiveX controls, plug-ins and Java applets in its Internet Explorer browser infringes on United States Patent 5,838,906, owned by the University of California and licensed to Eolas in 1994. Microsoft was ordered to pay $521 million to Eolas and the University and also change the way Internet Explorer works. The software giant is appealing.
Yesterday, Microsoft published some documents outlining the changes it will make to Internet Explorer to stop the program from infringing on the patent. These changes — which essentially amount to forcing the user to press an OK button before loading each ActiveX control — are accompanied by some steps that Web developers can take to allow their controls to continue working normally. These include providing any data required by controls inline (the patent only covers plug-in—like technologies that access external data) or creating controls using a script. Apple has supplied similar guidelines for avoiding the changes when embedding QuickTime movies, Macromedia has some advice for sites that use Flash, Shockwave or Authorware and RealNetworks is providing information for those who embed RealMedia presentations in their pages.
The Mozilla Foundation also issued a statement on the Eolas patent yesterday. Noting that the "matter highlights the degree to which web browser software is critical to the user experience of the web," Mitchell Baker assures Web developers that the changes proposed by Microsoft and others should be backwards-compatible with all current and future Mozilla browsers. To the best of our knowledge, Mozilla's plug-in implementation will not have to be changed as the ruling only applies to Microsoft. It is not yet known whether Eolas plans to take action against the Mozilla Foundation.
Thanks to everyone who has sent us information about this issue over the last few weeks.
#31 Re: More info.
Tuesday October 7th, 2003 9:02 PM
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In interview with Mr. Doyle of Eolas on eWeek <http://www.eweek.com/arti…le2/0,4149,1304249,00.asp> he said this: "Doyle: I think the key word there is "expensive." … We have from the beginning had a general policy of providing non-commercial users royalty-free licenses. We expect to be paid for the commercial use of our technologies.
We released our browser back in 1995 to the world free for non-commercial use, so that should be an indicator to people that the open-source community shouldn't have anything to fear from us. The extent that those products are used commercially by others or resold commercially, sure we expect to be talking to people who are making money through the use of that technology."