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September 21, 2003

Eolas Claims Willing to Settle!

According to a report in BusinessWeek, Eolas founder Mike Doyle says his company is willing to sell Microsoft a license.

“Microsoft has been representing to the world that they have no choice but to remove technology from the browser and disrupt the Internet,” Doyle said in an interview Friday. “And I want to make it very clear that that is not the case. Microsoft has had in its power the ability to settle this case, and to the extent that they’re refusing to settle, it’s their decision.”

Doyle distanced himself from some earlier comments he made, that led many to believe Eolas would be unwilling to license it’s patent to Microsoft. He said of the earlier comments that he was speculating on the hypothetical, but that Microsoft has capitalized on those remarks to spread FUD. Eolas attorney Jan Conlin reiterated that Eolas was open to settlement through licensing.

Microsoft’s response is that it would consider buying a license if it believed this patent was legitimate. MS representative Jim Desler called the Eolas Patent invalid and said that Microsoft believes it will win on appeal. He further commented that “…and we will certainly not pay for technology on the terms they’re seeking.”

Of course there are even more unanswered questions than there were before. Have any licensing offers been extended by Eolas ? When? Under what terms? Why has Microsoft not disclosed any of this to at least the W3C members–or has it—considering they pledged to keep all members informed of developments. The issue is muddier now than ever, and it still leaves plug-in developers, web developers, and corporate and end users without any hint of a resolution to what is a major issue for the next few years of web use and development.

Even if I believed software should be patented—which I don’t—I still believe that the Eolas patent should never have been issued. I would be interested in finding out how “reasonable” any terms Eolas has offered MS are. Microsoft has previously paid for licenses to other patents that MS had vehemently argued were invalid. They have also paid licenses for other IPSCO Unix licensing for instance—well before the underlying legal argument requiring the license has been settled. I am not suggesting that MS should in fact license the patent, only that it would be consistent with their past practices in this area.

As a matter of principle, I would like to see Microsoft continue the legal battle and succeed in invalidating this patent—as I would like to see all software patents invalidated. As a matter of practicality though, if Eolas terms are in any way reasonable, then obtaining a license to end this debacle now might prove to be the most affordable course to take. As I commented in my original entry on Microsoft vs. Eolas, “if the appeals process fails, Microsoft will offer to pay, and probably pay dearly to get a license from Eolas.”

For more background here see:
Microsoft lobbies for repeal of patents for software!
Microsoft vs Eolas Patent update
Microsoft v. Eolas-A New Twist?
also worth checking out:
IE, Flash, and patents: here comes trouble
Does Microsoft want to lose the plug-in patent case?
Saving the Browser

Posted by Eric at September 21, 2003 07:08 PM | TrackBack
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