Microsoft is seeking to settle a long-standing patent infringement lawsuit brought against it by Eolas. The company late last week corroborated that it was in "active discussions" with Eolas, which in 1999 accused the software giant of violating its patent when Microsoft implemented the ActiveX browser plug-in technologies in Internet Explorer (IE).
"We are hopeful that we can resolve our dispute amicably," a Microsoft spokesperson said.
The Eolas lawsuit has been a lengthy legal soap opera, with the companies at various celebrating alternating victories in the see-sawing case. In 2003, Eolas was awarded $520 million by a federal jury. That award was thrown out on appeal in 2005, however, but then the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) upheld the Eolas patent later in the year. In June 2006, the case took another twist when the USPTO said it would reevaluate the patent after Microsoft claimed it was actually the first to develop the technology in question. A retrial was supposed to begin today, but it has been put on hold for 30 days at the request of both companies so they can pursue a settlement.
The Eolas case has been closely watched in the industry and is one of the rare times when Microsoft's competitors and the open source community have actually rallied behind the company. If Microsoft ends up losing this case, the technologies patented by Eolas could lead to similar lawsuits against other browser makers, including Mozilla and Apple.