updated 10:45 pm EDT, Wed September 12, 2012
Eolas Technologies used patents-in-suit against Google, Microsoft
Eolas Technologies and the Regents of the University of California are suing Facebook, Wal-Mart, and Walt Disney Company over interactive technology patents, including hypermedia display and interaction. The patents were issued to the university and licensed to the Texas-based Eolas, chaired by Michael Doyle. A University of California spokesperson said it considered the patents public assets and they should be "paid a fair value when a third party exploits that university asset for profit."
Eolas has sued Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Yahoo, and others with the same patents in Texas. Two of the patents in question were declared invalid in February by a Texas jury, so Eolas' use of the patents in this suit is questionable. Microsoft settled in 2007 in a suit involving these patents, with the University of California being paid $30.4 million dollars as a result.
The lawsuit argues that Eolas owns the rights to core technology that allows interactive features to be embedded in many websites. The technology was allegedly developed by biologist Michael Doyle nearly two decades ago during his time at the University of California, which now is a part owner of Eolas.
Facebook views the suit as frivolous, and intends to "fight it vigorously." A Wal-Mart spokesman claims that the retailer respects the intellectual property rights of others, and the company will "take these allegations seriously and are looking into the matter." Disney has not responded to the suit.
Companies such as Eolas often try for far-reaching patent lawsuits of the sort, especially in Tyler, Marshall, and other Texas cities whose judges tend to favor the patent holder in a lawsuit. Even if a patent is overbroad and the company has no meaningful products of its own, patent-only firms like Eolas often count on targets being unwilling to go through the effort of a trial to defend themselves and instead opting for quick, if expensive, settlements.