Microsoft ordered to pay $521M in patent dispute

A jury in Chicago on Monday ordered Microsoft Corp. to pay US$520.6 million in damages to a technology company and the University of California after finding that Microsoft's Web browser infringed on a patent.

In the case, heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eolas Technologies Inc. and the university accused Microsoft of improperly including technology in Internet Explorer that allows interactive content to be embedded in a Web site. Eolas filed suit against Microsoft in 1999; the university later joined the suit.

The University of California in a written statement hailed the verdict as a "landmark in defining and protecting Internet technology." Eolas, a research and development company based outside Chicago, could not be reached for comment.

Microsoft called the jury's decision "disappointing" and said it plans to appeal the verdict to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. "We are confident the facts will support our position," the Redmond, Washington, software vendor said in a statement.

The University of California was issued a patent in November 1998 based on work completed by researcher Michael Doyle, who went on to found Eolas. Doyle is also the company's chief executive officer. Eolas has exclusive rights to use and license the patent, according to the University of California statement.

The patented technology for embedding interactive elements is a key component of the Internet experience today, the university said. It is often used, for example, with video players, virtual tours, games and stock information, according to the university.

The patent under dispute, number 5,838,906, can be viewed on the Web site of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (http://www.uspto.gov/). It describes in part "a system allowing a user of a browser program ... to access and execute an embedded program object."

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Joris Evers

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