W3C opposes anti-MS patent

Discussion in 'NZ Computing' started by Mainlander, Nov 3, 2003.

  1. Mainlander

    Mainlander Guest


    October 31, 2003
    Will Eolas' Browser Technology Patent Be Revoked?
    By Ryan Naraine

    The World Wide Web Consortium's (W3C) request to have the controversial
    ActiveX (define) patent reexamined and reversed might be unusual but it's
    not without precedent.

    Back in 1994, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) conducted a
    thorough reexamination and rescinded Patent Number 5,241,671, which was
    previously issued to Compton's New Media, a unit of Encyclopedia
    Britannica. When Compton's attempted to enforce the patent, which covered
    the use of text, graphics and sounds in multimedia applications, a huge
    public outcry forced the USPTO to order a re-examination.

    Officials at the W3C are crossing fingers and hoping that an industry-
    wide protest will force the patent office to launch a reexamination to
    prevent "substantial economic and technical damage" to the operation of
    the World Wide Web.

    U.S Patent No. 5,838,906 is at the heart of a multi-million dollar
    dispute between Microsoft (Quote, Chart) and Chicago-based Eolas
    Technology. In addition to forcing major changes Microsoft's flagship
    Internet Explorer browser, the enforcement of the '906 patent has sent
    Web developers scrambling to prepare code re-writes for Web pages that
    carry embedded interactive content.

    In an interview with internetnews.com, chairman of the W3C's patent
    policy working group Daniel Weitzner cited the Compton's precedent and
    insisted there was enough prior art available to lead to an invalidation
    of the patent.

    The W3C's HTML Patent Advisory Group, in a citation sent to the USPTO's
    Prior Art Department, presented what Weitzner described as "compelling
    evidence" of similar technology available long before Eolas even applied
    for the patent.

    "The sole difference between the web browser described in the '906 patent
    and typical browsers that the patent acknowledges as prior art, is that
    with prior art browsers, the image in such cases is displayed in its own
    window, separate from the main browser window, whereas, with the '906
    browser the image is displayed in the same window as the rest of the Web
    page, without the need for a separate window," the W3C said in its

    "That feature, (i.e., displaying, or embedding, an image generated by an
    external program in the same window as the rest of a Web page) had
    already been described in the prior art publications submitted herewith
    and was known to the Web development community. The claims of the '906
    patent are therefore plainly obvious in view of this prior art," the
    standards group argued.


    According to Weitzner, the W3C has clearly identified technology that
    established prior art to show that the patent Eolas applied for was "not
    at all novel at the time."

    "It's clear that the patent didn't meet the required standard of novelty.
    Software developers have long recognized the usefulness of adding objects
    in word processing programs. This is certainly not novel and our filing
    attempts to prove that," Weitzner added.

    Even if the W3C is successful with its reexamination request, legal
    experts say the brouhaha is far from being settled. When a patent is
    revoked, legal sources explained that a process known as "prosecution"
    follows. During "prosecution," patent attorneys and examiners at the
    USPTO trade documents in what is usually a long, drawn-out process.

    "The patent office throws out patents all the time but rejections don't
    mean it ends there. Usually, if there's a bitter dispute, it can go all
    the way to the Supreme Court," the source said.

    A spokesperson for the USPTO confirmed receipt of the W3C request and
    said a decision could come in a few days or could take up to 90 days. "It
    all depends on the merits of the request. If there are grounds for
    reexamination and substantial new questions are raised, we can order a
    reexamination," the spokesperson told internetnews.com.

    In addition to poring over the W3C's prior art filings, the USPTO can
    hold hearings around the country to seek industry-wide opinion, the
    patent office spokesperson added.

    Even as the W3C is insisting prior art is readily available, many wonder
    why this was never uncovered during the Microsoft/Eolas case that has
    been before the courts since 1999

    According to W3C's Weitzner, efforts to have the jury consider the prior
    art in the HTML standard was not allowed "for procedural reasons. "It
    [the prior art] wasn't rejected for any reason that won't allow the
    patent office to reexamine it. It wasn't presented to the jury because of
    procedural issues," he insisted.

    Microsoft officials declined comment, citing the ongoing appeals process.
    Lawyers for Eolas Technology did not return calls for comment.

    The USPTO has faced ongoing criticism for its patent examination
    procedures and, with the W3C getting involved and throwing its weight
    behind Microsoft, it's sure to generate intense debate in the coming


    For W3C's Weitzner, the issue is one of maintaining Web standards. "We
    are not involved with the political machinations here. Our fundamental
    commitment is that Web standards should be royalty free. The enforcement
    of this patent is a direct attack on the ability to participate in the
    Web on a royalty-free basis. It goes beyond a damage award that one of
    our members have to pay or wrangling between competitors," he argued.

    Weitzner, who is Technology and Society Domain Leader at the W3C, said
    unsuccessful efforts have been made in the past to contact Eolas. "We've
    reached out to them to understand their intentions and try to persuade
    them that this will cause major harm to the operation of the Web but we
    have not been successful," he said.

    In the midst of the legal squabbles, Web developers and software firms
    are busy creating workarounds to deal with changes to the way a new
    version of Internet Explorer will handle embedded content on Web pages.

    Microsoft has already announced that the browser's behavior will be
    changed in a coming update to prompt the user to determine whether an
    ActiveX control is loaded or whether to display alternate content. All
    Web pages with ActiveX controls are affected by this change unless the
    controls are created dynamically from script loaded from another location
    or the controls do not reference remote data.

    The modification effectively means that users visiting Web pages have not
    been updated will be presented with a dialog box before the ActiveX
    Control is loaded by the browser.

    Those IE changes, according to the W3C, would render the browser
    "incompatible with globally-accepted standards." Even worse, Weitzner
    noted, it could disrupt millions of historically important Web pages that
    contain embedded files.


    Microsoft was not the only big-name software firm rolling out
    modifications to deal with the ramifications of the patent.

    Macromedia (Quote, Chart), which markets software for the creation of
    Flash (define) content, has released details on "straightforward ways" to
    update Web pages to avoid the dialog box prompt. The company has launched
    a restricted beta of Active Content Update Utilities to provide tools to
    create workarounds.

    Apple Computer (Quote, Chart) also released instructions for Web
    developers and authors of QuickTime content (Windows or Mac) to avoid the
    dialog box interruption when streaming content is displayed.

    RealNetworks (Quote, Chart) plans to develop an Active Content Update
    Utility to deal with the IE changes. The company has also posted
    instructions on how content can be coded to work with the updated IE

    "To cause damages of this this magnitude to the entire web is wrong. The
    Web has to be able to continue to function according to publicly agreed
    standards," Weitzner added.
    Mainlander, Nov 3, 2003
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  2. steve

    steve Guest

    Re: W3C opposes Eolas patent

    Mainlander allegedly said:

    > http://www.atnewyork.com/news/article.php/3102651
    > October 31, 2003
    > Will Eolas' Browser Technology Patent Be Revoked?
    > By Ryan Naraine

    It's not an "anti-Microsoft" patent.

    It is a patent that Microsoft violated and they lost a court case to the
    tune of US$531M.

    Tha fall back position seems to be to use the political process to get the
    patent revoked.

    defenestrate: The act of throwing Windows out the window and replacing it on
    your PC with some other operating system.
    steve, Nov 4, 2003
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