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Microsoft loses $521m browser verdict
( 2003-08-12 10:21) (Agencies)

A federal jury in Chicago awarded the University of California and a browser technology company $520.6 million after finding on Monday that their patents were infringed by Microsoft Corp. .

The suit, originally brought against the world's largest software maker in 1999 by Eolas Technologies Inc., charged that Microsoft had used Eolas' patented Web browser technology which allows other mini-applications to work with Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, according to court documents.

Eolas had argued that the technology for "plug-ins" and "applets" made it possible for Microsoft to compete against the Netscape Navigator browser.

Netscape, which eventually became part of AOL Time Warner Inc., later lost its position as the top Web browser to Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Eolas, a closely held Illinois company founded by former University of California professor Michael Doyle, had originally sought licensing fees that would potentially have totaled $1.2 billion.

Martin Lueck, who heads the business litigation group at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP that represented Eolas and the University of California, said the verdict was "very fair and reasonable."

"We think the verdict is vindication that Microsoft has made extensive use of Eolas' technology to make its Internet Explorer the best-of-breed browser," Lueck told Reuters.

Microsoft said it would appeal the decision in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

"While today's outcome is disappointing, we do plan to appeal this decision," a Microsoft spokesman said. "We're confident the facts will support our position."

In a statement, Microsoft said, "We believe the evidence will ultimately show that there was no infringement of any kind, and that the accused feature in our browser technology was developed by our own engineers based on preexisting Microsoft technology."

Eolas was launched in 1994 with an exclusive license to market technology that allows users to run programs over the Web, enabling many of the Web's interactive features.

Asked if a settlement between Microsoft and the plaintiffs were still possible, Lueck said, "That's all in Microsoft's court."

The patent in question is U.S. Patent No. 5,838,906, granted in 1998.

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