Eolas fails to patent the web

Well, it was always a rather ambitious patent claim, and Eolas’s attempt to, in essence, patent the interactive web has failed.

The Texas-based company filed suit in 2009, claming that 22 companies, including Google, Yahoo, Apple and Amazon, were infringing two of its patents, which described how internet browsers could host embedded interactive applications.

The first patent describes a “system allowing a user of a browser program on a computer connected to an open distributed hypermedia system to access and execute an embedded program object”.

The second builds on this with a “distributed hypermedia method and system for automatically invoking external application providing interaction and display of embedded objects within a hypermedia document”.

Eolas was demanding more than $600 million in damages, mostly from Google and Yahoo. Many companies, including Oracle, paid up rather than fight the case; Microsoft settled earlier following a similar lawsuit.

However, the District Court in East Texas has now ruled against Eolas, and canceled three related upcoming trials.

It heard evidence from Tim Berners-Lee – popularly credited with having invented the web – and browser developer Pei-Yuan Wei.

Berners-Lee testified that upholding the patents could threaten the very existence of the internet; and Wei’s browser, Viola, was shown to be in existence some time before the Eolas patents were filed.

Eolas can appeal against the decision; but that’s likely to take years. Carry on browsing, everybody.