US Patent and Trademark Office Nixes Eolas Browser Plug-in Patent

Friday March 5th, 2004

Reuters is reporting that the US Patent and Trademark Office has invalidated a patent covering browser plug-ins. The patent, jointly held by Eolas Technologies Inc. and the University of California, has been struck down in a preliminary decision, which Eolas has sixty days to respond to. Eolas successfully sued Microsoft for infringing on the patent last year, forcing the software giant to outline drastic changes to Internet Explorer that would severely impact upon the user experience of the Web. MozillaZine reported on the lawsuit and the Mozilla Foundation's response to it last October. Thanks to Zachariah for the news.

#6 Re: This is great news

by bzbarsky

Saturday March 6th, 2004 1:45 PM

You are replying to this message

Actually, the wheel is _exactly_ the sort of thing that _should_ have been patented if patents had existed at the time. And I'm sure specific wheel designs have been patented since.

Keep in mind that patents are granted for a fixed length of time and once the patent expires the technology is in the public domain. This is vastly preferable to having the technology secret and wasting effort rediscovering it later.

Now if you're saying that things that are obvious should not be patentable, that's true. That's part of the patent process, in fact. But in that case you chose a terrible example -- the wheel is not at all an obvious thing and specific wheel designs targeted at particular uses can be _very_ nonobvious.

Note that "obvious" does not mean "once you see it it's obvious". In my mind a really great idea is precisely the sort of thing that fits into the latter category but not the former one (the wheel is a good example there).