Microsoft Refrains from Changing IE for Eolas Patent

Yet another twist is unfolding in the ongoing Eolas patent saga. Microsoft has announced that it will forego altering its Internet Explorer Web browser until an appeals court resolves whether or not to uphold a district court's final ruling on the case.

Eolas holds exclusive rights to a University of California patent over a mechanism that is used by developers to embed and invoke interactive programs such as an ActiveX control into Web browsers.

Much controversy surrounds the patent, which is currently under review by the United States Patent and Trademark Office at the insistence of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The W3C claims that prior art predates the 1994 patent, rendering it invalid.

Early HTML specification drafts authored by W3C head Tim Berners-Lee and staffer Dave Raggett potentially fit into the category of prior art.

Last November, Microsoft alerted partners and foes alike of its intention to modify Windows and Internet Explorer to sidestep a $521 million verdict handed down in August, 2003. Specialized instructions were supplied to developers who stand to have untold numbers of Web sites and applications "broken" by any implementation of the court's injunction, according to Redmond officials.

A short list of affected software includes: Macromedia Flash, Apple QuickTime, RealNetworks RealOne Player, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Sun Java Virtual Machine, and Microsoft's Windows Media Player.

Developers affected by the ruling can take a collective sigh of relief - for now. The district court has stayed the injunction until an appeal is heard.

Due to the circumstances surrounding the validity of the patent and feedback it has received from industry partners, Microsoft has decided not to release a patch for Internet Explorer or change the upcoming Windows XP Service Pack 2 at this time.

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