Patent case may bring Internet Explorer changes

Microsoft Corp. is preparing changes to its Internet Explorer (IE) browser because of a patent verdict against it, the company said Friday. The changes could affect a large number of existing Web pages, experts said.

"In response to the ruling, we are evaluating our options and may take precautionary steps in terms of any changes we may need to make to IE," Microsoft spokesman Jim Desler said. He declined to detail what sort of changes Microsoft has in mind.

A jury in Chicago on Aug. 11 ordered Microsoft to pay US$520.6 million in damages to Eolas Technologies Inc. and the University of California after finding that Microsoft improperly included technology in Internet Explorer that allows interactive content to be embedded in a Web site.

Microsoft does not expect changes to IE to have a significant or widespread impact, Desler said. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), however, believes that changes in Microsoft's browser could affect a large number of Web sites, W3C Chief Operating Officer Steven Bratt said in a notice on the W3C site. IE is by far the world's most used Web browser.

Microsoft is involving the technology industry and relevant standards bodies, such as the W3C, in its investigation into the changes it may have to make to IE. "We want to inform them about our thinking on this matter and get their feedback and input," Desler said.

The W3C held a meeting earlier this month to discuss the fallout of the patent case. Attendees agreed that a response to the case should minimize the effects of changes to Web software, Web sites and the user experience. Still, changes to IE "may affect a large number of existing Web pages," according to the W3C's notice.

According to the W3C, Microsoft will "very soon" make changes to IE, but Microsoft's Desler said it is "premature to get into any details in terms of what Microsoft may or may not do."

Microsoft plans to appeal the jury verdict once the court has finished dealing with post-trial motions and enters a final judgment in the case, Desler said. This is expected in the coming months.

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