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Eola says it won't license to Microsoft

of bad patents. The concept here is that imbedding another program in a brower is the patentable idea, which is utterly ridiculous to any programmer.

Nonetheless, Eola won a $520 million dollar settlement, which is actually quite a bit more than that with fines and interest and all that. That's not what is interesting though.

What's interesting is that Eola says that Microsoft won't be able to license back this technology for love or money. Robert Cringely wrote about this last November, but it was all "what if" then. Well, "what if" has become "what now", and unless Microsoft can pull a rabbit out their hat and beat this, their IE browser is going to be a rather useless application.

That, of course, isn't good for Microsoft, but wait, there's more: Microsoft will have to modify their browser, and I would expect that they'd have make same modifications come down to people doing Windows Updates. That's going to mean that folks will have yet another reason to ignore security updates - they won't want to break their working IE. No doubt an underground cottage industry would spring up to "fix" that little problem, but sooner or later IE would slide into oblivion because you can't ignore updates forever and mucking with them doesn't leave you feeling warm and comfy..

This is one of those times where I am truly conflicted. As much as Microsoft deserves this sort of comeuppance, this is a bad, bad patent and ought to have been thrown out. Unfortunately, neither the patent office or your average judge and jury understands programming enough to see why that is so.

So, painful as it is to say it, I'm on Microsoft's side on this one. Oh... that hurt!

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© Tony Lawrence

Overturned: http://techdirt.com/articles/20040305/1522216.shtml


"The Eola patent case is, I think, yet another ridiculous example of bad patents."

That's because the original concept by which letters patent was developed (our system is essentially a copy of the letters patent laws of 18th century England)-- that of proof of a non-obvious, novel design, method, whatever -- has been corrupted by our government. As I said in another post, we're at the point where a patent for toilet seat operation might be granted.

"...unless Microsoft can pull a rabbit out their hat and beat this, their IE browser is going to be a rather useless application."

You mean IE is actually useful for something other than system destruction? &lt;Amazed Look&gt;


So... you think perhaps that bad behaviour (monopolistic practices, etc.) is preferable to bad patents? Am I understanding correctly that you think your point of view reasonable?


I don't understand what point of view the person above is objecting to (and I wish you'd at least make up a name to "sign" with). I'm not in favor of bad patents or bad behavior and I don't think BigDumbDinosaur is either.


"As I said in another post, we're at the point where a patent for toilet seat operation might be granted."

Oh, so true. It really is starting to feel like that isn't it? I am still having a hard time distinguishing what can be considered a patent, and what can not. Although a new, brilliant idea that took lot's of man hours, research and development to become a reality should be rewarded, where do you draw the line? Can that person be indefinitely rewarded? Does everyone need to continue to license the idea? One of the major reasons why I became involved in opensource was because someone believed in the freedom of sharing information, to make the product better, through distibuting the information freely. This allowed me, a poor college student, to dig in and learn. I certainly did not have the money for all the software development kits from Microsoft, even at the academic price. In the opensource world, I could learn about software development, and contribute back to it, to make things better. People who think that patents should be applied to any little idea, or product, stifle the little guy out there, who can really add value to a product to make it easier for other people to be able to use the product. My best example is always about prescription drugs, and their generic equivalent. I don't understand who drug companies can complain about their rights to patents, and that they need to recoup their product costs, when you see a ton of marketing for drugs now, that some of them, I still don't even know what they are used for. Marketing costs a lot of money, and do drug companies really need to keep being paid after they have paid for the R&amp;D efforts several times over? Does anyone really care about the small guy out there anymore? Personally, I think it is all political now. Look at who the big contribtors to the Bush campaign were, and look at how things are being decided. I hope I don't start a political debate here, but a lot of these decisions are political ones, not necessarily benefiting the average American, or someone who does not have much money to pay for items that have a large licensing cost.

- Bruce Garlock

I'd like to believe that our politicians do, for the most part, act in what they consider to be good faith. I know that its often very hard for them, because sometimes to get one thing done they need to trade political favors and support something else that they may not be so enamored of.

Not that there isn't political influence from the moneyed folk, of course, but I think most of the problem there is simply that "money talks" in the sense that money gets you the opportunity to present your point of view very directly and often personally.

On the patent stuff, I think it's mostly ignorance. Examiners, judges and juries just don't understand that so many of these patents ARE obvious to those of us who have been banging at keyboards for a few years or more. Copyright extension, is I think, purely political and needs to be curtailed, or as someone suggested, corporations should be paying big fees to renew them - if Mickey Mouse is so important to Disney, they ought to be willing to pay for the privilege to keep that copyright so long.

I think patents need to be shorter for many things, and especially for software related patents. It might be valid to have a drug patent run for many years to recoup development costs, but software patents don't need anything like that - if they should exist at all.

One other thing: bad patents can be helpful in one sense. These horribly broad, all encompassing patents WILL expire someday, and when they do, their prior existence can help to avoid new bad patents of a similar type. Tough to hold your breath that long though.




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