Preliminary Patent Decision Preserves Rich Media Ads

Marketers may be able to breathe easier thanks to a preliminary ruling by the U.S. Patent and Trade Office saying original HTML specs precede Eolas Technologies’ patent for Web page plug-ins, invalidating its patent claims against Microsoft .

The decision has major implications for marketers using plug-ins such as Flash to deliver online ads. If Eolas’ patent had been upheld, Microsoft would have had to change its browser. This in turn would mean rich media would have to be re-programmed Net-wide.

Also, the decision could block a $521 million payout by the Redmond, Wash.-based software vendor to Eolas. In 1999, Chicago-based Eolas notified the Microsoft that its Internet Explorer (IE) Web browser had invalidated its claims. In August 2003, a jury found that Microsoft did infringe on Eolas’ patents.

Last week, Patent Examiner Andrew Caldwell rejected all ten claims of the Eolas patent. His ruling referenced the new prior art submitted by the Internet regulatory body W3C, including the draft specifications for Hypertext Markup Language by Tim Berners-Lee and others, published in June 1993, and other evidence.

Microsoft had predicted that the patent would be invalidated. A company spokesman, Jim Desler, said the decision was “not surprising.”

Eolas has 60 days to review the examiner’s ruling and the prior art he considered. The entire process could take 12 to 18 months.

Susan Kuchinskas, editor for contributed to this report.

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