Hey, want to win a lawsuit even if you lose? Or better yet, want to get a verdict against you overturned even when it isn't? Just drag the original lawsuit out, oh, say about four years and when you lose in court file an appeal and let that drag on another four years.
It worked like a charm for Microsoft.The software behemoth just settled it's long running legal battle with Eolas Technologies which dates back to 1999 when Eolas, a spin-off from the University of California, filed suit against Microsoft claiming that it violated its patents on technologies used in Internet Explorer.
"Eolas was granted the patent on November 17, 1998, which covers technologies for the creation of a browser system that allowed for the embedding of small interactive programs, such as plug-ins, applets, scriptlets or ActiveX Controls, into online documents," writes InternetNews.
(Microsoft changed IE 5 to avoid any further conflicts.)
In 2003, Microsoft lost the case, and got nailed with a $521 million verdict. Quotes John Paczkowski of AllThingsD, "At the time, it seemed the company had no intentions of settling, saying it would rather ship an altered version of Internet Explorer 6 that sidestepped the company's patent. "We believe we have substantial grounds for reconsideration by the judge," he cites Michael Wallent, a general manager in Microsoft's Windows division, as saying. "ï¿¼ [T]he idea that we would pay more than $630 million ($520.6 million in damages plus $111 million in interest) to get rid of a single mouse click on a small fraction of Web pages is not something that we're entertaining."
Entertaining indeed. Microsoft filed an appeal and the last four years has seen the David battle the Goliath for its share of the browser riches.
But it's only in the Bible that the little guy slays the giant. These days, the giant can afford to drag out the case till the little guy finally cries uncle and agrees to more favorable terms for the giant.
We'll probably never know what Eolas got out of the case. It is something. According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the "Eolas board anticipates paying a dividend to shareholders of between $60 and $72 per share."
But Ars Technica notes, "Given the way things have gone for Microsoft recently, the company probably paid out far less than the $520 million that Eolas won during the first court case in 2003, though we may never know."
Oh, and don't worry. Microsoft still believes conceptually in intellectual property. As CNet writes: "Although Microsoft has been a target in several intellectual property cases, the company affirmed its support for the concept in the computing industry."
It quotes a statement from Microsoft: "Microsoft values intellectual property and believes that the proper protection and licensing of IP enables companies and individuals to obtain a return on investment, sustain business and encourages future innovations and investment in the IT industry."
Uh, huh. Sure. Anyone want to buy a slingshot?