Microsoft Announces Steps to Address Eolas Patent Ruling
Oct. 06, 2003
Documentation for Developers and Modest Changes in Software Will Minimize or Eliminate Impact on Consumers and Address Issues Raised by Aug. 11 Ruling While Appeal Moves Forward

REDMOND, Wash., Oct. 6, 2003 — Microsoft Corp. today announced how it will respond to the August jury decision in the Eolas patent lawsuit. The steps include modest changes to Microsoft® Windows® and Internet Explorer as well as measures that Web developers and others who use Internet Explorer technology can take to ameliorate or eliminate the impact of the ruling. Microsoft is providing full documentation for these changes to help guide Web developers and other developers that use its Internet Explorer technology to create the best possible user experience. Other companies providing specialized documentation related to this change are listed on the Web site at http://msdn.microsoft.com/ieupdate/.

"This ruling affects more than just Microsoft; it affects a broad array of partners and customers -- including companies that many would view as competitors," said Michael Wallent, general manager of the Windows Client Platform at Microsoft. "Microsoft has been very proactive in reaching out to this group to develop steps that will reduce or eliminate the ruling's impact on consumers and other companies, even as we appeal it."

"Microsoft and Macromedia have worked together for years to deliver great Web experiences," said Norm Meyrowitz, president of products, Macromedia. "Together, we have developed a straightforward solution that should result in little impact for our mutual customers."

Eolas Technologies Inc. is the exclusive licensee of a patent owned by the University of California. In the case, Eolas asserted that the patent covered one specific mechanism used by Web page authors to embed and automatically invoke certain interactive programs. Although Microsoft asserted that the patent was invalid due to pre-existing inventions, the court refused to let the jury consider the prior art. The jury rendered its verdict on Aug. 11, 2003. The parties are still in the process of submitting their post-trial motions and briefs. The final judgment has not yet been entered.

The solution developed by Microsoft has two main parts:

  • First, Microsoft will make minor changes to Internet Explorer's handling of some Web pages that use ActiveX® Controls, such as Macromedia Flash, Apple QuickTime, RealNetworks RealOne, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Sun Java Virtual Machine and Microsoft Windows Media® Player. It is currently anticipated that this change will be deployed by early next year. If Web developers have not updated their Web pages using the techniques suggested by Microsoft and others, users may see a simple dialog box before the browser loads the ActiveX Control.

  • Second, Microsoft and other industry partners are working to provide documentation for Web developers that describe how to author Web pages so the dialog box would not be necessary.

Further information on the proposed changes to Internet Explorer and early versions of the documentation are available on the MSDN® Web site at http://msdn.microsoft.com/ieupdate/.

In addition to working with others across the industry on technical solutions to this problem, Microsoft has said it intends to appeal the ruling.

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