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Questions and Answers about UC/Eolas patent infringement
suit against Microsoft
Q. What is the patented technology that was at issue
in the case?
A. The patented technology is a key component of the interactivity
available on the Internet today. It allows web page developers
to embed interactive programs in Web pages. A browser, equipped
with the University of California’s patented technology,
is able to deliver that interactivity to the user. For example,
the technology is used often with stock information, video
players, games, virtual real estate tours and other interactive
content on the Web. The patent allows the Web to be a platform
for fully interactive embedded applications.
Q. How did this invention come about?
A. In 1993, as part of the Innovative Software Systems Group
at the UC San Francisco campus, researchers Michael Doyle,
David Martin and Cheong Ang were working to transform how
scientific information was created, accessed and published.
As part of their research, they began to explore the possibility
of expanding the sciences by allowing scientists to read not
only what was published online but to interact with that data.
While early Web participants struggled to implement helper
applications, Doyle and his team were already examining the
potential of the Web to become a platform for fully interactive
embedded applications. The UC patent originated from this
Q. If the patent relates to browser technology, why
was the Windows product discussed during the case?
A. Microsoft bundled its Internet Explorer Web browser with
its Windows product and made them an integrated, single product.
Microsoft viewed bundling Internet Explorer with Windows as
essential to garnering browser market share, which Microsoft
viewed as critical to preserving its Windows franchise.
Q. Why wasn’t UC a plaintiff at the beginning
of the case?
A. UC joined the lawsuit when Microsoft made allegations that
Eolas could not proceed in its name alone. UC joined because
it is an important lawsuit. The University expects to be fairly
compensated for use of its patented technology.
Q. Won’t this patent put a stranglehold on
A. UC seeks fair compensation for the use of the technology
made by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Web browser –
use which has allowed Microsoft to garner majority share in
the browser market and, in so doing, reap billions of dollars
Q. What is the relationship between UC and Eolas?
A. Eolas has had exclusive rights to the technology since
1994. Under the terms of the license agreement with UC, Eolas
is to pay the University for products it makes under the patent
and for licenses it grant under the patent.
Q. Why didn’t Microsoft license the technology
A. Microsoft was contacted in 1994, along with a number of
other companies, regarding the technology. UC cannot speculate
as to why Microsoft never pursued licensing opportunities
Q. Why did UC give Eolas exclusive rights to the
A. In 1994, UC decided that Eolas, founded by Doyle, best
understood the technology and was in the best position to
bring the technology into the commercial marketplace. While
the patent application was pending, Microsoft and others adopted
the technology for use in its products. The result was that,
by the time the patent issued, Eolas had been crowded out
of the marketplace.
Q. I understand that a key part of Microsoft’s
defense was thrown out of the case?
A. One of Microsoft’s defenses related to its claim
that UC’s patent is invalid because a Mr. Pei Wei invented
the technology prior to UC’s inventors. Following presentation
of that evidence by Microsoft at trial, the judge determined
that, as a matter of law, no jury could find for Microsoft
on that issue.
Q. What happens next?
A. There will be post-trial proceedings, which will include
an accounting for Microsoft sales occurring after September
2001, the cut-off date for damages determined by the jury.
UC and Eolas will also seek prejudgment interest. Microsoft
will have an opportunity to appeal the final judgment to the
Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, although university counsel
feels confident that the Federal Circuit will uphold the final