Largest Patent Troll Finally VanquishedIndustry observers point out that key patents at the centre of the Internet will now be safe from patent troll Eolas in the largest trademark payouts ever. Indeed, the Eolas patents have been so threatening to the Internet that Sir Tim Berners-Lee showed up in court in order to take on the trolls a year ago.
The case was the result of Michael Doyle’s effort to levy a vast patent tax, and its outcome was a major disappointment for the latter, because the court invalidated his patents and an appeals court agreed.
20 years ago, Michael Doyle was the director of a computer laboratory at the University of California-San Francisco and oversaw the creation of software enabling doctors to view embryos online. At the time, Doyle claimed it was the first “interactive” use of the Internet and patented the idea in 1994.
Doyle established a company called “Eolas”, but never made a product that worked – instead, he preferred to get rich off the back of settlements. The first lawsuit was filed in 1999 against Microsoft’s IE, which was accused of violating his patent on interactive features online. As a result, the company collected a $540 million jury verdict after appeals, and Microsoft chose to settle for $100 million.
However, things didn’t go well in other ways, because Eolas’ original patent was denounced by the Internet global standard-setting body a decade ago and there was a re-examination at the American Patent Office, during which Eolas’s patent wasn’t touched. Then, Doyle received another patent similar to its first in 2009 and launched some serious trolling against a number of tech giants, including Apple, eBay, Google, Yahoo, and Amazon. By 2012, he demanded over $600 million, but at the trial he was already asking for $1 billion.
So, Doyle and his lawyers made millions, but by the end of the latest jury trial, only Google, Yahoo and JC Penney refused to strike deals with the troll. Unlike other patent trolls that were happy to settle for settlements just under the cost of litigation, Doyle wanted to get millions of dollars from the defendants. Even after Eolas lost, it kept filing lawsuits against Disney, ESPN, ABC, Facebook, and WalMart. The worst part was that the University of California remained a big player in the trolling scenario.