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Eolas Sues Facebook, Disney and Wal-Mart Over University Of California Patents

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Three major US companies infringe University of California patents, says Eolas

Eolas, the company which sued Microsoft over browser plug-in technology, is suing Facebook, Disney and Wal-Mart over patents licensed to it from The University of California.

The University is jointly suing Facebook and the others, over patents for hypermedia display technology, which were issued to the University and licensed to Eolas – a firm set up to commercialise technology developed at the University of California. Though sometimes described as a “patent troll”, Texas-based Eolas has successfully settled with Microsoft for an undisclosed sum in 2007, and sued other makers of browsers and other software, with Texas Instruments and Oracle among others, signing licensing deals.

Eolas in the courts again

The four patents include hypermedia display and interaction and include some of the patents that Eolas founder Michael Doyle helped to develop during his time at the university. A spokesman for the University of California told Reuters that it considered the patents public assets and that it should be paid a fair price if a third party was going to use them for profit.

Facebook has claimed that the lawsuit is without merit while Wal-Mart said it was respectful of others’ intellectual property. Eolas settled with Microsoft in 2007 for an undisclosed amount, although the University of California said at the time that its share of the settlement was $30.4 million.

However what could complicate matters is that two of the patents cited were declared invalid by a Texas jury in a separate lawsuit against Amazon, Google and Yahoo. It remains unclear how Eolas can launch a new lawsuit citing those particular patents.

Earlier this year, Facebook launched a counter suit against Yahoo after the troubled Internet giant demanded licensing fees for patents relating to privacy, messaging and advertising.

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