Yahoo, Apple, Adobe, others named in Eolas patent lawsuit blitz

It's the same technology that was at the heart of a news-making patent suit against Microsoft: the patent held by Eolas Technologies that defines how a Web browser plug-in can activate functionality. A trio of Eolas patents was upheld under scrutiny in 2005, resulting in a battle in the nation's higher courts over whether Microsoft owes someone else for the right to use what could essentially be described as an "on-switch." It was a battle that brought a premature, if welcome, end to the marketing push for ActiveX.

But the final round of that fight never played out, as Eolas and Microsoft settled for an undisclosed sum, just as Microsoft won the right to argue the invalidity of Eolas' patents anyway. Since those arguments were never made, the 2005 decision upholding their validity stood.

Today, Eolas is using that decision as a platform to press forward with a colossal patent suit against a parade of new defendants, all of whom have something to do with the triggering of active functionality through a Web browser -- from Mac maker Apple, Flash maker Adobe, and electronic retailer Amazon to Frito-Lay, JPMorgan Chase, and Playboy Enterprises.

"All we want is what's fair," reads a statement to Betanews this morning from Eolas chairman Dr. Michael Doyle. "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. Profiting from someone else's innovation without payment is fundamentally unfair."

The showdown will take place where all great US patent lawsuit showdowns take place nowadays: federal court in Tyler, Texas. The lawsuit itself contained merely boilerplate text, listing all the defendants, citing willful infringement on the part of each one, and pleading for damages.

"As a direct and proximate consequence of the acts and practices of the Defendants in infringing and/or inducing the infringement of one or more claims of the '906 Patent and one or more claims of the '985 Patent, Eolas has been, is being, and, unless such acts and practices are enjoined by the Court, will continue to suffer injury to its business and property rights," the lawsuit reads.

The complete list of defendants is as follows: Adobe, Amazon, Apple, Argosy Publishing (publisher of The Visible Body), Blockbuster, Citigroup, eBay, Frito-Lay, GoDaddy, J. C. Penney, JPMorgan Chase, "transactional" adult entertainment provider New Frontier Media, Office Depot, Perot Systems, Playboy Enterprises, Rent-a-Center, Staples, Sun Microsystems, Texas Instruments, Yahoo, and YouTube.

Touting the high value of the portfolio it's defending in a statement to Betanews this morning, Eolas lead counsel Mike McKool said, "What distinguishes this case from most patent suits is that so many established companies named as defendants are infringing a patent that has been ruled valid by the [US] Patent Office on three occasions."

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