We have previously covered the Microsoft Eolas patent case in depth (district court judgment in this case, the Bonito Boats precedent, the so-called Eolas patent, and the USPTO action in the Ex Parte Reexamination.
We have viewed this case from the beginning as a paradigm example of the abuse to which patent laws are being subjected by companies and individuals patenting ideas, digital methodology, software and business methods. In our view, this issue is the most important matter being decided in law today, because it partially determines who will run the digital world of tomorrow. We must be extremely careful that monetary resources and power do not fall into the hands of simple opportunists, who are using flaws in our patent and copyright laws to try to enrich themselves at the cost of the populace without having contributed anything to the world from which they seek riches.
Not only is the United States Patent Office reviewing the Eolas patent (see the links above), but on March 2, 2005, in a case heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in
EOLAS TECHNOLOGIES INCORPORATED and THE REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA
MICROSOFT CORPORATION Case Nr. 04-1234,
the court affirmed-in-part, vacated-in-part and remanded the case for a new jury trial.
As Judge Rader, speaking for the Circuit Judges RADER, FRIEDMAN, and PLAGER, writes:
“Because the district court improperly granted judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) in Eolas’ favor on Microsoft’s anticipation and obviousness defenses and improperly rejected Microsoft’s inequitable conduct defense, this court vacates the district court’s decision and remands for a new trial on these issues.”
If we use Judge Rader’s discussion of those particular issues as a guideline, Eolas has little chance of succeeding on retrial, since no jury will find for Eolas once these defenses are presented to them.
Eolas has invented nothing, but is trying to profit from the stupidity of our patent laws and the antiquated manner in which patents are still granted. Perhaps Eolas will ultimately add something to our world by its bad example, thus hopefully leading to more sensible patent legislation which makes it harder for this kind of nonsense to happen.
Another and immediately important aspect of this case is that the parties had to split costs. Eolas is going to have to start to pay its own way in this world, and that will make its future increasingly and rightfully more difficult.
Other coverage of this case is found at:
Patently-O: Patent Law Blog has a thorough discussion of the Microsoft Eoloas case.
arstechnica has a thoughtful article, “Microsoft scores victory in Eolas patent case appeal” by Eric Bangeman
See also “Microsoft Ruling Overturned: New Trial Ordered in Browser-Related Patent Dispute” by Michael Liedtke, Associated Press, Thursday, March 3, 2005, Page E05, Washington Post (free registration required).
Law, Patents, Microsoft