Sunday, January 18, 2004
Notes from the (Legal) Underground
presents us with
the Trial Lawyer's Prayer.
It is definitely
Posted by Andis Kaulins at 1/18/2004 03:49:00 PM
"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players...."
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."
- William Shakespeare, Act II. Scene VII. As You Like It.
Craig, W.J., ed. 1914. The Oxford Shakespeare.
Via Classical Values and the aptly titled "Penetrating Legal Issues" we are directed to the host of issues surrounding the Michael Jackson case, a case which shows clearly that the Renaissance stage of William Shakespeare is now a modern circus tent.
Michael Jackson's guilt or innocence - for better or worse - is largely irrelevant. This is a public figure, who by his very nature and experience, will always seek the public limelight, whatever it costs.
Be aware (beware?) that we have substituted the adversary arena of the law for the battle of the gladiators in the Roman ampitheathers. The following quote is from wordsources.info on "Arena and Roman amphitheater circus productions":
"To the Roman mobs, caught in an economic tangle they could not comprehend and were unable to break, the circus was the only substitute for their troubles. The great amphitheaters became the ordinary man's temple, home, place of assembly, and ideal. As the games were ostensibly pious ceremonies given in honor of the gods, they gratified any possible religious sensitivities. At least for a few hours by being in the Circus Maximus, they were able to inhabit an edifice even more magnificent than the Golden Palace of Nero instead of having to stay in their miserable, overcrowded tenements.
When they were at the circus, Romans were able to meet with other freemen, feel a sense of unity as they sat with their factions cheering a certain chariot team, and imposing their wishes on the emperor himself for, as the Romans themselves said, 'In the circus alone are the people rulers.' The Romans worshiped courage and all Romans liked to picture themselves as rough, tough fighters. In Rome, the 'little guys' could identify themselves with a successful gladiator as modern fight fans identify themselves with a famous prize fighter or sports people are fiercely loyal to various sports' personalities or teams today."
Et tu Brutus?
Posted by Andis Kaulins at 1/18/2004 03:00:00 PM
How could the USPTO be lame enough to grant a patent like this?
Those who think that LawPundit is exaggerating in the previous posting in citing to the dangers of affirming the Eolas patent and what awaits us if this kind of nonsense is not stopped quite soon by lawmakers and judges, should take a look at this CNET article by Marguerite Reardon at Domain registrars sued over new URL patent, in a suit involving a patent just issued, December 30, 2003. The patent holders are Frank Michael Weyer, a patent attorney, Beverly Hills, California and Troy Kurosh Jahaver.
The patent covers
"a method and system of assigning identical URL and E-Mail addresses to members of a group. For example, if Jane is a member of a group called “Group,” the patent covers assigning Jane the URL www.jane.group.com and the E-mail address email@example.com." [emphasis added by LawPundit]
As written by Reardon:
"The suit accuses Network Solutions and Register.com of selling rights to Web URLs and e-mail addresses that infringe on a patent that was granted to Javaher and Weyer on Dec. 30, 2003. The patent covers the method of assigning URLs and e-mail addresses of members of a group such that the "@" sign is the dot in the URL. For example, if a group used a so-called third-level URL, www.john.smith.com, the e-mail address would be firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the complaint, Nizza Group specifically indicates that Network Solutions and Register.com are infringing the patent by selling rights to URLs and e-mail addresses under the .name domain."
As written about the CNET story at Domain Name Rights Coalition
"Take a look at THIS story. How could the USPTO be lame enough to grant a patent like this? What's next?"
You can be sure, that without legislative and judicial intervention, this is just the beginning of the coming chaos.
The legislative and the judiciary should ponder that if THEY do not get a handle on these problems, which are inevitable due to the stupid and erroneous extension - by the legislature and the judiciary - of the patent laws to both software as well as to the methods involved in running the internet, then one day the executive WILL get a handle on these problems, and probably have no choice but to do so.
Many seemingly unsoluble problems can be solved instantly by executive order. Indeed, one of the reasons that executive powers increase in any government system - is because the legislative and the judiciary are NOT doing their jobs adequately and are creating the need for executive intervention. We see this development in the battle against terrorism, where the law has developed too far in past years in favor of the rights of criminals and too little in the direction of the rights of the protected citizen. When that happens, someone has to restore the balance.
A legal system in which patents can be filed for every little item of technology related to the internet is absurd and will continue to lead to absurd results, such as the above legal action.
Here is the abstract of the patent involved, Patent Nr. 6,671,714:
"Method, apparatus and business system for online communications with online and offline recipients
The present invention comprises a method, apparatus and business system for allowing on-line communications with members of a group of recipients for whom the invention has been implemented. A group may, for example, comprise members of a particular business or profession. For example, a group may consist of doctors admitted to practice medicine in the United States. Individual members of the group may or may not have existing internet presences. The invention allows online users to communicate with each member of a given group regardless of whether or not the member has an existing internet presence. In one or more embodiments, the invention does so by setting up a database of contact information for members of the group, creating an internet presence for each member of such group, creating an on-line user interface allowing a user to access the member's created internet presence, and providing means of communications between the created internet presence and the member recipient. "
Posted by Andis Kaulins at 1/18/2004 02:31:00 AM
James B. Zagel, the District Court Judge in the Microsoft-Eolas case (Eolas Technologies Inc. v. Microsoft Corp., N.D. Ill., No. 99 C 626, 8/11/03), where a monetarily absurd judgment of $520.6 million against Microsoft was issued as jury verdict damages for patent infringement, is also the author of a previously written novel entitled "Money to Burn".
But whose money is being burned in the Microsoft-Eolas case? More below.
Microsoft vs. Eolas - The Patent Wars
Patents, once granted - rightly or wrongly - can for all practical purposes not be revoked - at best they can be rendered unenforceable. Moreover, patents on software, methods and business practices for the internet are increasing at an alarming rate. Hence, a once open and uncluttered "technology" system is becoming "legally" clogged. Every cog in the wheel of the World Wide Web is becoming a repository for more and more patent rights, royalties and licenses. As a result, the World Wide Web is in danger of ultimate "intellectual rights collapse" down the road.
Recent news reports and blog postings refer once again to the Microsoft-Eolas patent case decision, which Microsoft is appealing. If the Microsoft appeal fails, or if the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) does not limit the Eolas patent by prior art, the Eolas judgment will probably sound the bell for the beginning of the end of the internet as we know it today.
Microsoft vs. Eolas - The Patent
Here is the abstract of the Eolas patent:
"Distributed hypermedia method for automatically invoking external application providing interaction and display of embedded objects within a hypermedia document
A system allowing a user of a browser program on a computer connected to an open distributed hypermedia system to access and execute an embedded program object. The program object is embedded into a hypermedia document much like data objects. The user may select the program object from the screen. Once selected the program object executes on the user's (client) computer or may execute on a remote server or additional remote computers in a distributed processing arrangement. After launching the program object, the user is able to interact with the object as the invention provides for ongoing interprocess communication between the application object (program) and the browser program. One application of the embedded program object allows a user to view large and complex multi-dimensional objects from within the browser's window. The user can manipulate a control panel to change the viewpoint used to view the image. The invention allows a program to execute on a remote server or other computers to calculate the viewing transformations and send frame data to the client computer thus providing the user of the client computer with interactive features and allowing the user to have access to greater computing power than may be available at the user's client computer. "
See also the "Summary" of the patent here, where the writing is no better than above. When text is written in this kind of an obscure, diffuse, disconnected style, there is a method in the madness, and that method is the sesquipedalean obfuscation of simplicity with a cloak of repetitive nonsensical overbroad verbosity.
Microsoft vs. Eolas - Prior Art
In view of the antiquated and in our view erroneous application of the patent laws to internet technology, there are only two legitimate defenses against the Eolas patent in the Microsoft-Eolas patent case: 1) the defense of "prior art", and 2) the defense of "inequitable conduct". We turn here to the defense of "prior art".
As far as the Eolas patent is concerned, as Judge Zagel himself writes:
"The patent examiner rejected the patent three times, saying the invention was an obvious combination of prior art [emphasis added by LawPundit] (inventions that pre-existed the ’906 application). File History, Paper # 4, pp. 4-5; File History, Paper # 12, pp. 2-5; File History, Paper # 15, pp. 2-4. The relevant statute states: 'a patent may not be obtained... if the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made....' 35 U.S.C. § 103(a)."
In other words, the issue of "prior art" was already a great issue in even getting the Eolas patent filed. Read the above linked memorandum opinion, where Zagel finds time and again on difficult issues of technology for the plaintiff and against Microsoft, in many cases directly contrary to what many an experienced computer user - so our opinion - would decide.
Yet, Judge Zagel prohibited "prior art" evidence from being introduced to the jury regarding the Viola browser developed by Perry Pei-Yuan Wei and the HTML+ specification written by W3C staff member Dave Raggett.
The jury, thus lacking any evidence of "prior art" for its deliberations was thus left with no other alternative but to find in favor of the dwarf Eolas against the giant Microsoft. The verdict was thus pre-programmed.
Indeed, Zagel's decision on the prior art of the Viola Browser seems to our way of thinking critically flawed. The question here - as in the Bonito Boats case - is this: Was this really an invention or merely a skilled mechanic juggling prior art as well as the research ideas of others?
As noted by Judge Zagel, the founder of Eolas was in close written contact with some of the other major people working on browser technology at this time and had e-mail exchanges with them on the specific topic of "embedding" long before the Eolas patent was filed. Although no one doubts that the Eolas founder was the first to file the patent on this technology, the question is whether the actual ideas and prior art came in part from his internet colleagues, as has been the normal practice in the history of the internet. The instance of an isolated "invention" in this field is all but unknown. Everything always builds on the state of the art that existed before and the road ahead is usually quite well marked. Almost all new developments of methodology are "obvious".
We find it regrettable that Judge Zagel so effortlessly - and yet we find so clearly erroneously - dismissed the prior art issue, because it does appear that legitimate issues of prior art do exist, even beyond those specifically examined by the patent examiner (who can not - on his own - have known of much of the work that other researchers were also doing on "browser embedding" at the same time that the founder of Eolas was working on the problem.)
Indeed, Eolas in its own press release (reproduced further below) specifically admits "prior art" as to previous browsers, stating that its "enhancements" are based on NCSA's award-winning Mosaic program.
Microsoft vs. Eolas - The Eolas Patent will be reviewed by the USPTO as to Prior Art
Based in part on the following cited letter by Tim Berners-Lee, the USPTO has agreed to review the Eolas patent. As written by Tim Berners-Lee of W3C, "father" of the World Wide Web, and head of the World Wide Web Consortium, in a letter to James E. Rogan, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office:
"The sole difference between the Web browser described in the '906 patent [i.e. the Eolas patent 5,838,906] and typical browsers that the patent itself acknowledges as prior art, is that, with prior art browsers, the image is displayed in a new window, whereas, with the '906 browser, the image is displayed in the same window as the rest of the Web page. But that feature (i.e., displaying, or embedding, an image generated by an external program in the same window as the rest of a Web page) was already described in the prior art publications submitted in our section 301 filing."
For purposes of that review of the Eolas patent, other researchers who have evidence of "prior art" for the Eolas patent are submitting that prior art to the USPTO. As noted with respect to the alleged Eolas patent as being invalid on the basis of prior art at the appropriately named raving lunacy blog:
"[P]rior art is being gathered and sent to the patent office. Hopefully they will invalidate this patent and the rest of us who build websites for a living can get back to work."
The link to W3C here is one such example of prior art as being collected by the W3C.
Microsoft vs. Eolas - The Defense of Inequitable Conduct
The defense of inequitable conduct essentially means that someone claiming a patent can not intentionally fail to disclose relevant material relating to his patent - e.g. the known research of other persons on the subject of the alleged "invention". If inequitable conduct is found, the patent is unenforceable.
In this regard, Zagel held regarding the "defense of inequitable conduct" raised by Microsoft that:
"[t]he defendant [Microsoft] has failed to prove that the inventors or assignees of the patent failed in their duty of candor in the patent prosecution before the United States PTO."
This is a finding which we at LawPundit find to be clearly erroneous. It is clear as a matter of fact from the record that the founder of Eolas had active interchange with other "embedding" programmers in the internet community but did not mention these interchanges or their research in the Eolas patent application, nor in interchange with the patent examiner, thus giving the erroneous impression that the patent invention was exclusive to Eolas and not based on any prior art - which was the whole issue. This is a conclusion which is hard to sustain given the fact that there was a concentration of research on this obvious next browser development at that time by numerous persons in the internet community, including Microsoft itself.
Yet, Zagel writes:
"So I do not believe that Doyle made a tactical decision to forego disclosure because of the advantages of defending his invention after patent issued. He made the decision because he believed that Wei was full of hot air and he had nothing concrete to display to an Examiner. So I credit his testimony that he had no intent to deceive the Examiner. In this case, the Wei claim, as known to Doyle, was of limited materiality at best, and he had no intent to deceive."
It is hard to accept the logic of Zagel's statement. In spite of the fact that the Eolas patent was thrice denied by the patent examiner for "prior art", the founder of Eolas never mentioned to the patent examiner any of the other research concerning browser embedding that was known to him, even though "prior art" was the major issue which was going to determine whether the patent would be granted or not. The explanation given by Judge Zagel is simply not believable.
Microsoft vs. Eolas - The Case of the Previous "Unrelated" Patent
We find it significant - and evidence as to character and intent - that the founder of Eolas - ALREADY five years previous to 1994 [when the Eolas patent was filed], in 1989 had applied for a totally different patent claiming the invention of some kind of "bit map" technology for video displays. "Bit map" technology has been known since the inception of the internet. We find it telling that also here, apparently no appropriate credit is given in the filing to the copious prior art and inventions made by others.
Everyone should take a look at this patent filed in 1989. Here is the abstract of that earlier "invention":
Method and apparatus for identifying features of an image on a video display
A computer graphic interface allows a user to obtain descriptive information concerning a feature of a displayed image by pointing to the location of the feature. Conversely, the user may enter descriptive textual information, and the locations of responsive features are indicated. The data processing and memory storage requirements are minimized by encoding information about the image as a pixel bit map, and a color map in which the addresses or indices of the color map are correlated with the addresses or pointers to strings of descriptive information. Each color map address corresponds to a predefined set of features and descriptive information about those features. Since the pixel bit map defines a color map address for each location on the image, suitable programming of the color map can insure proper correlation of descriptive information with corresponding locations on the image. The correlation between color map addresses and the descriptive information about the features is represented most compactly by arranging or sorting the entries in the color map so that there is a correspondence between each predefined feature and a continuous range of color map addresses. Therefore, for a specified color map address, the corresponding set of features and their pointers can be found by comparing the specified color map address to the limits of the color map address ranges for the various features.
In my opinion, this above patent, written in "garble speak", and claiming a patent on video display imaging by "a pixel bit map" - a method of coding color information known to everyone since the inception of computing - tells us something about the nature and purpose of the later "patent" filing on browser technology.
For the LawPundit, what Eolas claims to have invented is nothing new and part of the inevitable development of browser technology, most of which anyone can see in advance, that takes no genius - it is the implementation, i.e. the specific writing of software, which is critical, not the attempt to patent "imagined" new methodologies, for which no patents should be given. We can all imagine new technologies and methodologies. "Inventing" them and actually putting them to work as software is a completely different ballgame. The latter takes time, effort, skill and investment.
For Zagel to dismiss "prior art" defenses raised by Microsoft in the course of the trial - as if these defenses were simply irrelevant - and to prevent them from being heard by the jury, was, in our view, clearly erroneous.
Microsoft vs. Eolas - The Players
How do we account for the course of these proceedings thus far?
There is a saying: "To know the game you have to know the players."
Applied to the Microsoft-Eolas case, this saying brings us many new insights into the world of human interactivity and the vagaries of the law.
Judge James B. Zagel - the District Court Judge in the Microsoft-Eolas case
James B. Zagel, J.D. Harvard, was appointed United States District Judge in 1987. An evaluation of his early work as a judge is found here. It is written in that evaluation that:
"Many lawyers claim he will stretch the law to meet his political views, or his own notion of what is fair in a particular case."
Indeed, this meshes with our view concerning Zagel's opinions in the Microsoft-Eolas controversy, which seldom have the tenor of a man weighing the issues, but which give us a sense of strong one-sidedness to them, as if he had decided early on to side with Eolas. This meshes with the following statement in the evaluation:
"He is viewed as very prosecution-oriented."
And in the instant case, the civil "accused" is Microsoft, and that is how Zagel's opinons read.
What makes Judge Zagel further of interest is the fact that Zagel is the author of Money to Burn, a unique novel - for a judge - published in 2001.
Money to Burn is a story set in the same district in which Zagel is a judge and involves - of all things - a plot about a U.S. District Judge and friends of the judge robbing the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank of $100 million. For a judge's book, that is unusual, by any stretch of the imagination. Is this proper writing for a judge? and what kind of a judicial mindset is at the bottom of such a publication?
One might argue that what a judge writes and publishes in his spare time is irrelevant to his judging duties. However, if you were a wealthy corporation facing a one-man company with no assets and merely one alleged highly-disputed patent, would you want a judge who has written a book entitled "Money to Burn" to be the judge of your case, especially given the above "costly" plot?
Harriet Klausner, a reviewer of the book, Money to Burn, writes:
"[W]hat engages the reader with the story line is the thought processes of the Judge, a model citizen who seems to have allowed his darker side to take charge."
The damages for patent infringement awarded by the jury in Eolas were $520.6 million, far surpassing the heisted amount in Money to Burn.
In this real non-fictional case, the "money to burn" is the money of Microsoft in a verdict amount which can only be seen as absurd by any standard for what is a "miniscule" part of the entire Microsoft software code. Even Judge Zagel finds the verdict "not entirely comfortable".
While I am not entirely comfortable with the large size of the judgment, it is not my comfort which matters.
Yes, but by excluding evidence of prior art from reaching the jury, Judge Zagel contributed greatly to such a verdict. A jury would then get the impression that there was no prior art of any kind, not even related research, and that the case presented a case of flagrant patent infringement. In other words, in spite of his being "uncomfortable", Judge Zagel is directly responsible for the size of the impossibly inflated judgment.
Unfortunately, in the last analysis, it is not really Microsoft's money, but OUR money which is at issue here, since the consumer pays the bill in the end, regardless of the outcome of this case on appeal, and regardless of whether the USPTO limits the Eolas patent as being anticipated by prior art or not. All costs and judgments enter into the calculation of the sale price of Microsoft software as costs of doing business. Microsoft has no problem here - it will merely adjust their pricing to cover the verdict.
Hence, the consumer ALWAYS pays. The question is, to whom? For example, thirty to forty percent of the judgment goes to the plaintiff's law firm - a healthy sum. Our view is that our payments as consumers should preferably be made to someone who has contributed something of value to us - i.e. to the ultimate user. What has Eolas done for us? Nothing. What has Microsoft done for us and what does Microsoft do for us? Plenty. Should we, the consumer now pay Eolas these immense sums for nothing, giving Eolas money to file more and more "prior art" patents in all areas of research and inquiry, not just in internet browser technology? It will be chaos.
Microsoft vs. Eolas - Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi - Attorney Advertising
Speaking of lawyers, Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P., attorneys at Law (website last visited January 17, 2004), are the litigators for Eolas. We have no doubt that they are a fine law firm and have some very capable lawyers. However, as with many of the disturbing things in this case, we were greatly disturbed by the fact that the home page of the online presence for this firm has the following "registered" trademark for their professional "line of work" prominently displayed:
"We don't just practice law, we make history.®"
We find that to be a strange description of the "fields of practice" of a firm in the legal profession. Should not the bar associations of the jurisdictions in which this firm practices law, require that this particular firm advertising slogan be stricken immediately from all firm publications, online or off? See in this regard Rappaport, Ballard and MSBA. Indeed, the latter link is to the Minnesota State Bar Association's Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct which set out
Rule 7.4(a) (Communication of Fields of Practice) as follows:
"A lawyer may communicate the fact that the lawyer does or does not practice in particular fields of law. A lawyer shall not use any false, fraudulent, misleading or deceptive statement, claim or designation in describing the lawyer's or the lawyer's firm's practice or in indicating its nature or limitations."
Attorney advertising is one of the subjects which the LawPundit often teaches in his law school classes. It is the view of LawPundit that the "advertising claim" that the law firm "makes history" and does not "just practice law" far exceeds the permissible bounds for acceptable advertising by attorneys. Such advertising is normally limited to their "fields of practice". As it stands, the slogan is prima facie misleading, suggesting to a prospective client that this law firm offers something special - "beyond the practice of law", which is simply false.
When we look at the respective law firm link to find out what "history" this relates to, it is nothing more than a list of successfully litigated cases - plus notice of a charitable contribution (discussed later). Many other law firms could present lists of successful litigation - after all, one side generally wins in every litigated case - but this does entitle a law firm to advertise that they "make history" as one of their "fields of practice", i.e. BEYOND "just practicing law". "History", in our view, is something made by the historians and journalistic reporters of events.
If the bar associations in the states in which this law firm is present were on the ball, that online law firm slogan would have to be dropped immediately, and an appropriate reprimand would have to be issued. But perhaps the law firm is too powerful in that state for any action to be taken? As the law firm itself states on its "making history page" at the end of their list of successful litigations:
"The firm donated a gift of $30 million to the Minneapolis Foundation in 1998, one of the nation's largest community foundations and the oldest foundation in Minnesota. The gift is believed to be the largest contribution by a law firm to a community foundation in the United States."
Money talks. But the above statement as part of the law firm's linked "history making page", i.e. a "fields of practice page", also looks like impermissible advertising, having nothing to do with the practice of law. Is the suggestion here that clients should seek out this law firm because part of the fees will be donated to charity? Or is the suggestion here that they retain this firm because the law firm is so successful that they can afford to hand out these kinds of monies to charitable institutions? Ordinarily, in our judgment, perhaps the "news" that a law firm makes charitable contributions in certain amounts is permissible, but certainly not when it is tied by link to a registered slogan stating that:
"We don't just practice law, we make history.®"
Michael Doyle - founder of Eolas
An eweek article gives the following interview exchange:
"eWEEK.com: [With] the browser you had released, the actual embedding technology in this patent, that was just one element of it, I would guess?
Doyle: Yes … that browser had a lot of cool things to it.
eWEEK.com: What was that browser called?
Doyle: WebRouser, sort of a play on words. The idea was—wake up the Web."
If we understand that "play on words", before Eolas arrived, the Web was asleep, is that right?
It occurs to us here to ask a critical question: Was this press-released WebRouser EVER actually released to the public or was the press release of the product release just hype? This is a doubt which is also voiced here:
"Back in 1995, Eolas announced WebRouser, a browser that was to support embedded applets. If it was ever released, I don't know where it can be found now."
We too have looked up and down the internet, and found nothing, absolutely nothing. The program WebRouser is not to be found anywhere. Was the WebRouser simply an idea? How was the alleged invention actually implemented, if at all? Surely, for a case of this magnitude, it should be possible to download this allegedly radical new browser from that period of the internet for inspection at the website page cited by Eolas, i.e. at http://www.eolas.com/eolas/webrouse/ - but there is nothing there at that page (last visited January 17, 2004) except for an HTTP 404 error "nothing found", nothing at all. What a strange case this is - we might call it the "Case of the disappearing browser WebRouser".
In fact, the Eolas press release even misspells (?) the WebRouser in the URL as "webrouse". We also looked at the correctly spelled http://www.eolas.com/eolas/webrouser/ (last visited January 17, 2004). There is nothing at all at that page either. Indeed - presuming that the Eolas press release is properly reduplicated at the sites where it is cited - the release is inordinately sloppy in publicizing an allegedly revolutionary new embedding browser program, misspelling "drastically", "convenient", "current" and having the additional grammatical and typographical errors of "This represent a" and "together,these". That is a pretty high error rate - 6 errors - for about only one page of what apparently was considered "important" text worthy of being released in a press release to the world. As any software programmer can confirm, if the programming of WebRouser were similar - - presuming the program actually ever existed - the program would be useless. NO such sloppy errors can exist in programming code - otherwise the software program collapses.
In any case, we find the Eolas patent to be an attempt to patent a methodology, which is specifically prohibited according to the case of Bonito Boats.
As written there by Justice O'Connor:
"In addition to the requirements of novelty and utility, the federal patent law has long required that an innovation not be anticipated by the prior art in the field. Even if a particular combination of elements is "novel" in the literal sense of the term, it will not qualify for federal patent protection if its contours are so traced by the existing technology in the field that the "improvement is the work of the skillful mechanic, not that of the inventor." Hotchkiss v. Greenwood, 11 How. 248, 267 (1851)."
In the opinion of LawPundit, the Eolas patent falls strictly within the above definition - it is the work of a skillful mechanic, not that of the inventor. We should not be rewarding these kinds of patent applications - we should be denying them. If the idea is good, let the skillful mechanic put his juggling of prior art into practice into his software product and sell that product. If he is unable to do so, then accumulated wealth should not flow to him in any way.
The Eolas WebRouser Press Release, September 18, 1995
Here is the entire Eolas Press Release of September 18, 1995:
9/18/95 Chicago: Eolas Technologies announced today that it has
released its WebRouser(TM) applet-enabled World Wide Web
browser, royalty-free for individual non-commercial use.
Versions are currently available for Sun, SGI and Linux
platforms, with Windows and Mac versions to follow in first
quarter '95. The application, and sample Weblets can be downloaded
via the Web at http://www.eolas.com/eolas/webrouse/.
Based upon enhancements to NCSA's award-winning Mosaic
program, WebRouser features patent-pending technology that
drasticaly expands the functionality of Web-based
applications, and provides a simple and convienient way to
add new features to browser programs through the use of
plug-in applications, called Weblets(TM).
The Weblet enhancement allows fully-interactive program
objects to be run from within Web pages, through the use of
<EMBED>command within the document's text. These
Weblet programs become treated by the browser as a part of
the Web document, displayed "inline" and controlled by the
user in place, without diverting the user's attention from
the document itself.
Three demonstration Weblet programs are being distributed
with the WebRouser package. These include an "inline" MPEG
movie player, a 3D CAD file viewer/manipulator, and a 3D
molecular modeling application.
For example, when a user visits a Web page that has a URL
for a 3D CAD model placed within the Web page through the
use of the
<EMBED>tag, the browser fetches the CAD file
over the network and then launches the CAD viewer weblet on
the user's machine. The user sees a live window within the
Web page, displaying the fully-rendered 3D model, and a
control panel which allows the user to rotate the model and
zoom in to see details. When the user then travels from
that page to the next destination on the Web, the browser
"caches" the Weblet together with the Web page. If the user
then hits the "back" button, to return to the most recent
site, the Weblet appears again, right where the user left
it, having maintained its "state" (rotation position, zoom
level, etc) during the time it was cached.
Many other Weblets are currently under development by Eolas
and others, including Weblet-based interpreters for several
popular programming languages, such as Safe-Tcl/Tk, PERL,
and the GRASP animation language. Plans are in the works
for the creation of both JAVA and Visual Basic Weblets as
Other unique features of WebRouser include client-side image
map support, and the ability for the browser's button bar
and menu structure to be dynamically modified by simple
commands within HTML documents.
Client-side image maps, for example, allow HTML authors to
create graphical interfaces to their content that can be
distributed on CD ROM, using the same image-map-based front
ends as the online versions. Many publishers are attempting
to create hybrid CD ROMs that use Web browsers as their
front-end, capitalizing on the ability to develop one body
of content that can be used both for CD and online
distribution. These projects are often stymied by the fact
that the image maps that are currently all the rage on the Web
cannot be used to front-end the CD content.
The currrent approach on the Web is to use ISMAP-based image
maps that require that a remote server decode the hotspots
on the image. Since the ISMAP-based image maps are served
up by the remote machine, they can't be used to front-end
CDROM-based content, where oftentimes a network connection
is not available. WebRouser's client-side maps can be
loaded directly from the CD ROM, with no network connection
Another major advantage of WebRouser is the ability of Web
documents to dynamically modify the browser's button bar and
menu structure. According to Eolas CEO, Mike Doyle, "Most
Web designers try to build in some sort of navigation system
into their documents, usually at the top of the page. The
problem arises when the user scrolls down the page and
suddenly the navigation GUI is no longer visible. WebRouser's
<LINK>command allows the Web document to place a button bar
at the top of the screen, as a part of the WebRouser GUI.
When the user scrolls down the document, the navigation
buttons remain in place. Since the document drives the
definition of the buttons' functions, each Web site can have
its own Netscape-style "What's New," "What's Cool," etc.
button bar pointing to their own content, not to some
hard-coded browser company location, such as in other browsers."
<GROUP>command allows a Web document to define
a new menu option in the WebRouser menu bar, allowing the
user to quickly jump to a particular Web page within a
large, complex Web site hierarchy.
"This represent a new paradigm, since these technologies empower
Web designers to personalize their Web sites, and to deliver new
levels of interactivity via the web. Taken together,these
enhancements represent a quantum leap in the ability of Web
site designers to build compelling functionality into their
Eolas also announced the launching of their commercial
licensing program for both WebRouser and the development of
Weblet-based commercial applications. Further information
can be found at the Eolas WWW site (http://www.eolas.com),
or by calling (312-337-8740), faxing (312-337-8743), or
emailing (email@example.com) Eolas directly.
* Eolas Technologies Incorporated *
* 10 East Ontario Street, Suite 5106 *
* Chicago, IL 60611 *
* voice: (312)337-8740 *
* fax: (312)337-8743 *
* Web: http://www.eolas.com *
Prior Art seen by Joel Crisp in that Press Release already in 1995
Here is what we find about the WebRouser online at
"Eolas releases WebRouser via the Internet" in a posting by Joel Crisp. In that September 18, 1995 posting Crisp continuously points a finger at the hype found in the press release about the WebRouser, isolating several alleged browser improvements as found in the prior art of other technologies and in the HTML specifications:
1) As Joel Crisp writes:
Hmmm. do Microsoft and SUN know this ? And is support for JAVA
a backtrack ? How is this going to be affected by the patent ?
( If I was SUN, I wouldn't license my technology to someone trying
to patent the whole methodology .... ) ....
Note the point made here that NOT an invention is apparently being patented, but rather that someone is trying to patent the entire methodology, based on OTHER's technology - for which NOTHING is being paid - a patenting of methodology which is absolutely contrary to the legal standard set out in
2) Crisp writes further in that same posting:
This has been in the HTML-3 spec for some time. Are Eolas going to try to patent this too ?
Crisp's observation points to the fact that WebRouser in that press release in 1995 was already being marketed with a lot of hype for unique features that were in fact covered by HTML specifications as PRIOR ART.
Another interesting fact is that in the allegedly existing WebRouser, applets - first created in early 1994 - were suddenly renamed weblets in the WebRouser - not coincidentally - later in 1994 (i.e. the applet idea was being copied, for free). Given that view of applets and weblets, was a weblet rather than an applet a patentable invention, unforseen by prior art? If so, why was there the obvious copying and similarity in name, if it were not a derivative of prior art? Renaming and skillfully mechanizing technology does not make it a new invention.
Linguistic Note on the word Eolas
According to the Gaelic dictionaries searchable at MacBain's:
"eòl , eòlas = knowledge, Irish eól, eolas, Early Irish eólas, Old Irish heulas...." which in our opinion is the same as Latvian jels, jelais, jelums meaning, inter alia, "grey matter, the raw substance of the brain". The actual translation as "knowledge" is probably incorrect. This makes sense in view of the main old Irish word aithne for "knowledge", a word related to English know, and Indo-European e.g. Latvian zine-, atzina also meaning "knowledge, cognition".
If the law can not see the Eolas patent to be what it is, then the law can not be helped.
In fact, LawPundit predicts here that the United States Patent and Trademark Office will invalidate the major operative claims of the Eolas patent - leaving the patent intact except for the parts invalidated by prior art - but as a matter of practice - making the patent unenforceable against Microsoft or anyone else.
If the USPTO does not do this, they will have lost all credibility in the internet community, and they really cannot afford to do that. Otherwise, many people, seeing how easy it is to become a millionaire simply by filing patents for methods of prior art, will flood that office with claims as the years go by. Eolas itself has plenty of such new prior-art based patents in the making, and not just in the field of computers. Mark our words.
Indeed, we ourselves are seriously thinking about having some patent applications being readied for things that we see coming in the digital and new media world, but which are not yet commercially perfected by the companies that make the products. Are they in for a surprise a few years down the road when they find out we have beat them to the punch! We too want to be rich, true to the motto, that "there is always somebody else's money to burn".
Posted by Andis Kaulins at 1/18/2004 02:00:00 AM
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