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There has been quite an activity in the legal department of Microsoft & Eolas(the company who sued Microsoft for using Active-X plugins for Flash & related technologies in IE).

In a recent judgement, The US Patent & Trademark Office has ruled that the controversial 906 browser patent of University of California is invalid. This decision, though doesn’t smooths things for Microsoft, who is fighting hard against the sole licensee of this patent, Eolas, but may pave the way for Microsoft’s win.

Last year Eolas dragged Microsoft to court claiming infringement of its patent which covers a way of opening 3rd party applications like Flash SWFs, PDF Documents, etc. in a browser window. The jury deciding in favour of Eolas, slapped a license fees of $521 million on Microsoft, which was later increased to $565 million. Microsoft ofcourse appealed against this verdict, claiming that the patent was awarded to Eolas improperly & is not valid.

Now that The US Patent & Trademark Office has ruled against Eolas, things doesn’t end here. Eolas can still argue their case against Patent Examiners once more & if that doesn’t work out, they can appeal to Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences. After this, the last option available to them will be to go to Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC.

Now, you may wonder, why am I blabbing this legal stuff. Well, I haven’t got insane, this has very much to do with you as a web-designer/developer as well as with me. The thing is that if this patent is upheld & Eolas win, we might go insane, that is, if we make use of Flash or other embedded technologies in the websites that we make. Why? Read on….

So, if Eolas wins it all, then its more than likely that Microsoft & other browser developers will re-write their code to side-step the patented idea rather than continue shipping browsers using the current technology, which will certainly incur huge amounts in licensing fees.

This will take its toll on webmasters, web-designers/developers as hundreds of thousands of web-pages using these technologies would have to be re-coded to make them work with new browsers. 😯 :dizzy:

And as Lucy Sherriff rounds off this story at TheRegister, she notes that

One of the more interesting side effects of this case is that it has made for some unlikely alliances. Who would have thought that Microsoft would be fighting alongside Web luminaries like Sir Tim “www” Berners-Lee? He wrote to the US PTO earlier this year, asking it to review the patent.

Well, I guess its quite surprising, no? 😀

By the way, you can get the whole story at TheRegister.