Eolas Launches Legal Salvo Over Embedded Web Apps

Not many everyday computer users have heard of Eolas, but they’ve almost certainly used thing Eolas claims are its patented technology: the company has filed a federal copyright infringement lawsuit against 22 companies claiming their technology infringes on two Eolas patents covering embedded applications in browsers. Among the named defendants are industry heavyweights like Google, Apple, Adobe, Sun Microsystems, Amazon, eBay, and GoDaddy, along with businesses like BlockBuster and Staples and even JPMorgan Chase & Co.

Eolas Logo

Eolas claims the companies are violating patent 5,838,906 granted to the company in 1998 concerning a “distributed hypermedia method for automatically invoking an external application providing interaction and display of embedded objects within a hypermedia document.” Eolas also alleges the companies are violating patent 7,599,985, which extends the technology to Web browser plug-ins and Ajax Web application techniques. Among the technologies Eolas claims infringe on its technology are Adobe Flash, Apple QuickTime, Sun’s Java and JavaFX, and Google Chrome.

Normally the industry might roll its eyes at such a broad fusillade of patent violation claims, but Eolas has been on this train for years: it won a suit against Microsoft in 2004 over the same patents for some $585 million, and while that judgement was partially overturned the company settled with Microsoft in 2007 an undisclosed amount. Furthermore, Eolas’s ‘906 patent has been upheld as valid twice by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“We developed these technologies over 15 years ago and demonstrated them widely, years before the marketplace had heard of interactive applications embedded in Web pages tapping into powerful remote resources,” said Eolas chairman Dr. Michael D. Doyle, in a statement. “Profiting from someone else’s innovation without payment is fundamentally unfair. All we want is what’s fair.”

Obviously, the 22 companies names in the new suit are far from the only companies using these sorts of technologies: if Eolas takes the case through court and wins, tens of thousands of online businesses and Web-based companies would potentially be vulnerable to claims.