Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
The Internet Technology

Man Claiming He Invented the Internet Sues 326

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-due-credit dept.
wiedzmin writes "A low-profile Chicago biologist, Michael Doyle, and his company Eola Technologies, who has once won a $521m patent lawsuit against Microsoft, claim that it was actually he and two co-inventors who invented, and patented, the "interactive web" before anyone else, back in 1993. Doyle argues that a program he created to allow doctors to view embryos over the early Internet, was the first program that allowed users to interact with images inside of a web browser window. He is therefore seeking royalties for the use of just about every modern interactive Internet technology, like watching videos or suggesting instant search results. Dozens of lawyers, representing the world's biggest internet companies, including Yahoo, Amazon, Google and YouTube are acting as defendants in the case, which has even seen Tim Berners-Lee testify on Tuesday."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Man Claiming He Invented the Internet Sues

Comments Filter:
  • Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Synn (6288) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:23PM (#38972463)

    It's come to this now? How bad does it have to get before the entire system is scrapped?

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rsilvergun (571051) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:36PM (#38972685)
      The big guys would just love this. They pay this guy $500 million and then never have to worry about another Google coming out of nowhere and redefining everything again. In Europe it was called the guild system, and it kept knowledge and power in the hands of the ruling elite.
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Funny)

      by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:36PM (#38972697)

      It's come to this now? How bad does it have to get before the entire system is scrapped?

      Unfortunately the same guy who claims he invented the internet also claims to have a patent on scrapping the patent system, so we'll never find out how bad it would have to get.

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Funny)

        by tripleevenfall (1990004) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:02PM (#38973065)

        Unfortunately for him, entering text with a keyboard was my idea (and I have a few friends who remember me saying it) so he owes me royalties for that patent petition!

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

      by hey! (33014) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:10PM (#38973171) Homepage Journal

      Well, looking at his patent claims, it's a lot more like he's patented the use of something like Applescript to let a browser control an external application. In fact in 1994 this was quite common in the Apple world, Applescript being introduced in 1991. In fact I think quite a few people were viewing medical imagery and multimedia (remember when that was a buzzword?) stored in "databases" like FileMaker and (ugh) 4th Dimension. It was commonplace stuff in the Apple environment while the Microsoft-centric world was still banging the Windows 3 rocks together (remember Windows for Workgroups?).

      The web, however, was not commonplace in 1994, so he may well have been the first to file for the use of this technique with a browser. However the technique was so commonplace it would be hard to imagine that it was *original*, especially if he used a browser with the necessary IPC mechanisms built-in. Why else *would* they developers have made an Applescript-aware brower *but* to interact with other programs? If they wrote the browser themselves, then they might have a claim that an IPC-aware browser was a novel thing.

      In any case, unless I'm mistaken the patent doesn't describe built-in multi-media capabilities, or multi-media capabilities through plug-ins. It covers controlling an external program with a browser.

      I wish this guy success though. As you suggest, this will gore enough oxen that somebody with money will care that the system is broken.

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:24PM (#38973391) Homepage Journal

        I wish this guy success though. As you suggest, this will gore enough oxen that somebody with money will care that the system is broken.

        Your folly is in assuming the cure won't be worse than the sickness.

        Think about the parties involved here, and their past actions regarding patents and copyright. This does not bode well for the average creator.

      • If they wrote the browser themselves, then they might have a claim that an IPC-aware browser was a novel thing.

        He would've been in a race with AMosaic [wikipedia.org], an Amiga web browser with an ARexx interface that allowed it to interact with other applications and scripts and which was publicly released on Christmas 1993.

    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by matrim99 (123693) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:39PM (#38973573) Homepage

      How bad does it have to get before the entire system is scrapped?

      My guess: When patents for methods of political fundraising become popular (and begin to be litigated), we will begin to see fundamental change within the patent process.

  • by sohmc (595388) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:25PM (#38972507) Journal

    Many of the companies named has defendants have used patent laws to their advantage. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out, especially since Tim Berners-Lee, who is completely against software patents, is set to testify.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:26PM (#38972527)

    I mean... if you file your claim decades after everyone was violating your patient isn't that your fault at a certain point?

    I know big companies are basically forced to defend their trademark and copyrights or else risk that other people can do it with impunity. There's some requirement that you protest when this sort of thing happens.

    So... shouldn't he have protested like... forever ago?

    For the sake of argument, if his claims are all valid, they should be void now because he didn't act on them until now.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I know big companies are basically forced to defend their trademark and copyrights or else risk that other people can do it with impunity. There's some requirement that you protest when this sort of thing happens.

      That's only true with trademarks. Copyrights and patents have no such rule.

    • by medv4380 (1604309)
      Depends, if it's a patent that was being infinity appealed and just now made it though then he would only be able to make the claim now.
    • by stating_the_obvious (1340413) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:33PM (#38972643)
      RT(F)A -- Suit originally filed in 1999. Since the claim is specifically against image interaction, rather than simply hyperlinks, the timing is just about right.
      • by icebike (68054) * on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:21PM (#38973335)

        RT(F)A -- Suit originally filed in 1999. Since the claim is specifically against image interaction, rather than simply hyperlinks, the timing is just about right.

        That 1999 suit is long since over:

        To those who follow high-profile tech litigation, the name Eolas may sound familiar. The company sued Microsoft back in 1999, winning a $521 million jury verdict in 2003 that shook the tech world. While that verdict was overturned on appeal, Microsoft ultimately settled rather than re-try the case.

        So ultimately they lost the only case that went to court. By that time Microsoft could pay them to go away out of pocket change. That doesn't in any way validate their patent, which rejected the Eolas patent claims in re-exams. That was the state of things for a long long time.

        So the entire web grew up in the interim after the rejection, but before the re-instatement. Everybody thought the way was cleared by the rejection.

        Just as a side issue, Compuserve had the ability to share images over the web BEFORE there was even a WEB. Their suite even had image viewing back when it was strictly dial up. They introduced the GIF format in 1987, and digital porn was born two minutes later.
        Compuserve was the first online service to offer Internet connectivity, albeit limited access, as early as 1989.

        And another side note, consider this exercise:

        Berners-Lee's argument against this patent, namely that unless the Eolas patent was invalidated it would cause the “disruption of global web standards” and cause “substantial economic and technical damage to the operation of the World Wide Web. is fairly weak if you ask me.

        If Eolas didn't have valid patents the case should be thrown out on THAT fact alone! BUT, If they did have valid patents, then invalidating them SIMPLY because of the hardship those patents would inflict seems to me just one more proof of how essential those (supposedly) valid patents would be to the development of the web.

        I throw that out in the interest of discussion only. I'm not aware if there is any case law that allows invalidating a patent JUST because it proves essential to development of the very product it patents.

        (Note: this is about current law, not the world as it "should be").

        • by SomePgmr (2021234)

          [Compuserve] introduced the GIF format in 1987, and digital porn was born two minutes later.

          I hope you don't mind, I'll be shamelessly repeating this quote for years to come.

          • by russotto (537200)

            I hope you don't mind, I'll be shamelessly repeating this quote for years to come.

            It's nonsense; digital form long predates GIF. There was porn ASCII art.

    • by larien (5608) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:36PM (#38972687) Homepage Journal
      See Wikipedia on Submarine patents [wikipedia.org]. Notably:

      The ruling was upheld on September 9, 2005 by a three judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit under the doctrine of laches, citing "unreasonably long delays in prosecution"

      So, it seems there's a chance that waiting too long can invalidate your claims.

      Compare with trademark law where you have to defend it whenever it may be seen to be infringed (see the case where Hoover corp lost the right to have the exclusive rights to the term "hoover"); the same doctrine should apply for patents. Of course, the whole patent system is a mess these days as it was designed in a different age with different industries. Scrapping patents isn't the solution as they provide valuable protection to inventors who put effort into designing something, but they're horribly abused by various parties.

    • by NewWorldDan (899800) <dan@gen-tracker.com> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:40PM (#38972775) Homepage Journal

      If you'd read the article, you'd see that there has been some back-and-forth with the patent office. Most of his claims were invalidated and some were then later reinstated. He had semi-successfully sued Microsoft, had the judgement overturned, and then later reached a settlement (undisclosed, but estimated to be in the realm of $100 million). Worth noting is that Microsoft was not allowed to present evidence of prior art at trial. Why that would be, I have no idea - I'm not a patent lawyer. In any event, in terms of this guy not acting on his claims, that's just an indictment of how slow the legal and patent processes move.

      Certainly, there's no question that by the time his patent application was publicly published, much less granted, everything in there was in common use. Frankly, if you strip out all of the buzzwords like hypermedia, it boils down to something as simple as downloading and running a script. That's it. And there's plenty of prior art that existed in 1994 for all of the claims listed in the application.

      • Worth noting is that Microsoft was not allowed to present evidence of prior art at trial. Why that would be, I have no idea - I'm not a patent lawyer.

        I'm not a lawyer or an American, but as I understand it (from previous discussions on Slashdot), in America you can only defend yourself by saying that you don't infringe the patent. If you want the patent declared invalid, you have to sue separately for invalidation (which Microsoft did) then appeal demanding that the original judgement is overturned. I believe that the US is the only place with this (frankly nuts) system.

        • I'm not a lawyer or an American, but as I understand it (from previous discussions on Slashdot), in America you can only defend yourself by saying that you don't infringe the patent. If you want the patent declared invalid, you have to sue separately for invalidation (which Microsoft did) then appeal demanding that the original judgement is overturned. I believe that the US is the only place with this (frankly nuts) system.

          Your understanding is incorrect. Submission of prior art is a standard part of patent litigation. I do not know specifically why it would have been disallowed in that case.

  • Missing a letter (Score:5, Informative)

    by CarsonChittom (2025388) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:27PM (#38972553) Homepage

    I believe the company is actually Eolas [wikipedia.org].

    • by wiedzmin (1269816)

      I believe the company is actually Eolas [wikipedia.org].

      You're right, oops.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by gVibe (997166)
      Yes...and Eolas was founded in 1994. Not to mention, Arpanet was invented in 1968 and patented in 1970, which was followed in 1986, when one LAN branched out to form a new competing network, called NSFnet (National Science Foundation Network). NSFnet first linked together the five national supercomputer centers, then every major university, and it started to replace ARPAnet (which was finally shutdown in 1990). NSFnet formed the backbone of what we call the Internet today. All of this happened before 1993
  • by shellscriptz (2478426) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:28PM (#38972557)
    I think this is a sign of the times, because if $521 million isn't enough, I blame inflation. This troll is obviously starving and homeless because there not a bridge in existence big enough. Also, I invented the light bulb in 1995. Pay up bitches.
  • Bad post title (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dmomo (256005) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:32PM (#38972605) Homepage

    "Internet" != "Interactive Web"

    Why sensationalize this lawsuit? It's absurd enough on its own merit.

  • by dnaumov (453672) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:32PM (#38972613)

    So you not only sued Microsoft, you actually won 500 million. Regardless of whether this was a dick move on your part or not, good for you, you are now set for life (or 3).
    Now why on Earth would you risk it all by going into litigation again?

    • by Baloroth (2370816) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:49PM (#38972899)

      He settled the MS suit, actually (for an unannounced amount, but in the millions at least). I would assume that, like many people who find themselves with undeserved money, he blew it all on private jets, hookers, and blow, and now is looking for more (rather than going back to work). Also, TFS doesn't mention it, but quite a few companies have already settled. This is (one of) the problems with the legal system: it's easier and cheaper for big companies just to pay a few million than actually do the right thing and blow these stupid patents right the hell up.

      • by Baloroth (2370816)
        Sorry, I meant to say: he initially won the MS suit, but it got overturned on appeal, and then settled it out of court. I wasn't clear.
  • Let him succeed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:33PM (#38972633)

    His patent is about as valid as 99.999% of all computer-related patents from the last 25 years. Maybe if he sues the entire planet into oblivion, someone will admit how screwed up software patents are.

    Ah, how I love my afternoon fantasies...

  • by unity100 (970058)

    So the circus had finally started for REAL at last ...

  • Patent Lifespan? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by lobiusmoop (305328) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:33PM (#38972651) Homepage

    On a practical note, since this was an 'invention' in 1993, wouldn't the patent expire next year anyway (20 year patent life?) In that case, won't somebody like IBM just tie this up in the courts and give the lawyers something to chew on until it runs out anyway?

  • If it gets tied up in court until 2013 the patents will have expired, would he still have the ability to use after that point?
  • I was interacting with images (masturbating to porn) on my computer way before 1993 (BBS's in 1985).
  • by retroworks (652802) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:37PM (#38972699) Homepage Journal
    He may as well "let it ride" and sue everyone for everything.
  • Kinda late ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by redelm (54142) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:38PM (#38972735) Homepage

    Even if combining file transfer [ftp] and image scrolling is patent-legally considered "novel", there is the question of damages. 1993 patents ran out (in the US) in 2010, so he cannot get any ongoing damages.

    Optaining "back-damages" would be highly dependant on legal procedure, but I doubt he would be entitled to [m]any if he did not inform the alleged infringers during the period of their alleged infringement. It's not like browser coders were hard to see, find or email. Just another troll.

  • Universities (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rhysweatherley (193588) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:44PM (#38972823)
    And this is why universities like UC should be forbidden by law to apply for patents and required to put all discoveries in the public domain. It makes them or their former faculty pull stupid stunts like this where protecting revenue from commercial spin-offs is more important than doing science and research.
  • Trolling so hard... it's full of stars!

  • by Namarrgon (105036) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:48PM (#38972885) Homepage

    Internet != Web, sheesh. The Internet was around long before Doyle or Sir Tim or whoever invented the Web in 1993.

    You'd think editors might know that by now, even here on /.

  • Javascript / HTML (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:49PM (#38972901)

    Am I understanding the patent correctly in that it requires an external application to be infringing? So that something like ActiveX or QuickTime plugin would infringe, but pure HTML5 and Javascript (because there is no Interprocess Communication) would be non-infringing?

    Based on the claims in this Patent, can anyone explain how Eolas is not in the right? I mean, I get that they didn't implement anything, but this was filed in 1994. It seems like anyone supporting the patent system would have to admit defeat on this (i.e. Google, Yahoo, etc). If you're generally against software patents, that seems like the only argument. I don't see anything obvious about this from 1994.

    It seems like the ViolaWWW would have been prior art that nullified this patent, but apparently the claims were not clear enough?

  • Prior Usage. (Score:5, Informative)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @05:52PM (#38972947)
    Back in them Old BBS days we Had RIPScript and RIPScript 2
    There was also a Graphical BBS Engine called Roboboard and its upgrade Roboboard/FX
    There were systems like Prodigy, and AOL which had images...
  • Note that someone seems to be confusing the Internet with the World Wide Web, so I am not sure which he is claiming IPR on. Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web (WWW) at CERN in 1989. The Internet dates at the latest to the start of the NSFNET (1985). Either way, this seems to indicate that a patent issued in 1993 may have some issues with prior art.

    • by mbone (558574)

      Having read FTA, he is claiming IPR on part of the interactive part of the web, the company seems like a pure troll (they make nothing), and he might, just might, win.

    • by number6x (626555)

      Hypertext had been around since the 1980's. Apple II hypercard [wikipedia.org]

      anyone? There were many products before that.

      Berners Lee released HTML by early 1991 [w3.org].

  • I hope he wins. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:03PM (#38973071) Homepage Journal

    He should win. Then finally it will become blatantly obvious that copyrights and patents must be abolished.

    • Copyrights have nothing to do with this lawsuit.

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        doesn't matter, they have hurt everybody plenty in every other way, and they will be used to destroy the Internet as well, SOPA was just the beginning.

    • Re:I hope he wins. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Xyrus (755017) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:54PM (#38973797) Journal

      Abolished? That's what smart people would do. But in the real world where the number of dollars just about always wins out over doing what's right, what will happen is even more ridiculous patents being shoved through the system that are so general that it will prevent anyone from ever being able to come up with another "invention" without infringing on a dozen patents. This will effectively kill innovations and cement the position of the big boys at the top of the ladder.

      Patents were designed to facilitate progress. Now they are abused to facilitate profits.

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        Profits are fine as long as they are made the honest way - satisfying customer demand, as opposed to buying political power with bribes.

  • And so prescriptive rights [wikipedia.org] should apply if the patent holder doesn't defend his/her rights for an extended period of time.

  • by jtara (133429) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:11PM (#38973183)

    The Trojan Room Coffee Pot cam predates this by two years, though that was on a local network and didn't use a web browser. It didn't appear on the Internet until November, 1993.

    The Netscape Fishcam shortly followed. I believe the first outdoor cam was at an antartic research station shortly after that.

    Moving images were enabled by the "server-push" feature in Netscape's server and client. I'm assuming this used that technology, which of necessity would have pre-dated this claim. I would think the use case would be obvious.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trojan_Room_coffee_pot [wikipedia.org]

    • by dkf (304284)

      The Trojan Room Coffee Pot cam predates this by two years, though that was on a local network and didn't use a web browser. It didn't appear on the Internet until November, 1993.

      That doesn't apply. The Eolas patent is all about browser plugins, a technology invented by Mike Doyle very early on during the development of the web and which he demonstrated to MS sometime back shortly after he applied for a patent. After getting the brush-off, he was furious to discover ActiveX was basically the same thing and made basically after someone saw his demo. That lead to the whole legal dispute. (If you ask Mike[*] now, he says that fighting legal wars over patents is a horrible thing to do,

  • by hAckz0r (989977) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:14PM (#38973221)
    The "patent" fig 9 discusses how to get the NCSA Mosaic 2.4 browser to display his object. He did NOT invent the Internet. He did NOT even invent NCSA Mosaic. He claims to have invented a way to view *his* 3D imaging object within a standard (at the time) browser. While there are some applicatons for viewing 3D within a browser, but I don't think they all need X-Windows protocols and the specific framework laid out in this patent to work within that particular viewing paradigm. Lets not panic just yet.
  • ...to "How many times can Slashdotters make the same Al Gore joke in a single article comments section? Click below to find out!"

  • Doesn't whoever wrote the summary know that there's a difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web? Or that the summary doesn't even make sense unless you make that distinction?
  • by DontBlameCanada (1325547) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @06:24PM (#38973387)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosaic_(web_browser) [wikipedia.org]

    Official release 1993, pre-release versions were available in 1992.

    My university was one of the first to have a "high speed" link then. IIRC, we had a dedicated DS1 which allowed those of us in the engineering school to view some of the very first pictures available on the web using pre-release Mosaic beta loads. Several of the grad students at the time were working with folks doing the primary research on surrounding technologies.

    I *think* it was 1992 (my second year) when we started using it pretty heavily. A favorite passtime was downloading "questionable" pics from the various alt.xxx.pictures newsgroups and opening mosaic windows on other people's Sun workstations, so that the lab admin would kick them out... That lab admin, wasn't too sharp.

    Good times, good times!

A sheet of paper is an ink-lined plane. -- Willard Espy, "An Almanac of Words at Play"

Working...