back to article Troll loses 'we own the Web' patent appeal

Eolas, the troll that asserted ownership over pretty much everything anyone ever wanted to do on the Web, has been sent packing, with a US court invalidating its patents. The case, launched in 2009, had generated worldwide interest and attracted Tim Berners-Lee as a witness. Eolas was claiming ownership over embedded browser …


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  1. edge_e

    Repeat after me

    Don't feed the trolls

    1. Captain DaFt

      Re: Repeat after me

      Aw, can't we feed them to the sharks? They need the energy to carry those frikkin' lasers!

      (Uhm, wait a minute.. Trolls *are* edible, right?)

      1. Anonymous Coward


        "Uhm, wait a minute.. Trolls *are* edible, right?"

        You might want to throw a 1d12 to make sure ;-)

        1. MrDamage

          Re: @Captain

          Dont be silly.

          You need to roll a D20 first to make sure you hit, then roll D12 for the damage from the alchemist's fire flask.

          1. wowfood

            Re: @Captain

            Alchemists fire isn't d12, it's dt6. D12 would be a greataxe, which wouldn't really do anything since it's not fire or acid.

            Now if that greataxe were enchanted with fire, then you might stand a chance.

            Also if a troll were inside a stomach I believe they take both acid and slam damage. The slam would reduce them to zero hp, and then the acid should in theory keep them dead. Although I believe there were some creatures where they didn't deal acid damage inside the stomach, I'll need to check that later.

            (trolls only take lethal damage from fire and acid, all other damage is turned to non-lethal. As such, the stomach would keep them unconcious at the least with the slam damage, and hopefully the acid would eventually finish them off.)

          2. Daniel B.

            Re: @Captain

            You need to roll a D20 first to make sure you hit, then roll D12 for the damage from the alchemist's fire flask.

            I rolled two 20s! Critical Hit!

      2. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Repeat after me

        Oh yes, Trolls are edible.

        However, as they regenerate damage faster than your digestive juices inflict it, eating them is inadvisable.

      3. Miek

        Re: Repeat after me

        "(Uhm, wait a minute.. Trolls *are* edible, right?)" -- Don't worry, Bull Sharks are known to eat nearly anything ...

      4. Erwin Hofmann
        Thumb Up

        Re: Uhm, wait a minute.. Trolls *are* edible, right?

        ... yeah and so are Apple(s) ... well done Jury and US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, but don't stop here much more hast to be done ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Repeat after me

      They will be back.......

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Repeat after me

      To slightly change Bush's famous line, "If you feed a troll or fund a troll, you're a troll".

  2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Own goal

    >owned by the University of California, had sued Microsoft ....yielded around $US30 million for the University

    But presumably means no Microsoft/Gates donations to the UC system

    Would it be legal for MSFT to decide not to hire any future UC grads? - live by the troll ,die by the troll

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Own goal

      I sure hope so, it is a private company.

      No wait, this is 2013, it probably isn't legal.

  3. Alister Silver badge

    I bet Oracle and Texas Instruments are feeling a bit pissed off now - I take it they won't get their money back?

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      They probably pitched the licensing fees at that magic "can we be arsed to fight this?" level.

      Same principle as private parking tickets. Most people just pay them, despite the likes of moneysavingexpert and pepipoo having a 100% success rate at getting 'em overturned (i.e. there's not a single one ever been issued in the UK that's worth the paper it's printed on.).

    2. Brian Miller Silver badge

      The troll has to pay the money back.

      A company I worked for got hit by a troll. The troll asked for $X, and the owners were ready to pay. Then the troll asked for $X+N, and the owners decided to fight. They spent $X+N+Y on the defense, but they won, and the patent was shown to be invalid. When a troll loses, the troll has to pay back *all* of the companies that paid it.

      1. Frank Marsh


        I don't mean to be rude, but companies that have previously settled with a troll (or any patent owner, for that matter) almost never get their money back. The troll is smart enough to put language in the settlement agreement that says "even if this patent is found invalid, that doesn't affect our settlement."

        It is a pretty sorry state of affairs, though - the previously settling companies have paid out 10s or 100s of millions on a patent that was invalid the whole time, but only officially declared invalid after they were out of pocket.

        -US patent lawyer

  4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    There should be a "you didn't stand your ground" law

    ...whereby settling companies get invited to defray the legal costs of the rest.

    1. wowfood

      Re: There should be a "you didn't stand your ground" law

      How about a

      "Sue them all" rule, whereby you can't just test the waters, you have to issue legal threats to all comapnies you're aware of breaking your 'patent' at once, rather than going after a few, and using that as legal ammo for the next few as you work up the ladder

      Or perhaps a "falsely charged" rule where, if you get royalties for a patent which is invalidated, you have to refund the fees gained from said patent, as you aquired said money under false pretense (only if the company actually put up a fight, or is in a worse position financially such that they couldn't put up an effective fight)

      Or perhaps a rule where, if a patent is challenged rather than going through a whole legal farce where millions of dollars are wasted, they re-assess the patent first, using a technical expert in the field (rather than average joe b) to decide if the patent is valid or not, expediting the whole legal process, then if an appeal is made it's only the patent holder involved.

      1. Tom 13


        Your third option is the most sensible. And unfortunately, therefore the least likely to be enacted.

        While I admire the intent of your first option, in practice it would be difficult to implement. How do you determine "awareness" of the patent company with respect to enforcement?

        Your second option is a bit of a mixed bag. I think companies that simply roll over instead of fighting should lose something. Whatever they paid to settle instead of fighting seems like a good start. But I think the other suggestion that those who rolled over get to also contribute to the legal fees for the people who eventually won is better. It changes the money calculation on paying off the bastages just to make them go away. To preserve what I believe is the intent of your suggestion, I'd say that any money paid to the troll (plus interest compounded annually from the time it was received) should be forfeit to the public treasury. That way we at least get some use from it as well as changing the money calculations for the trolls.

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: @wowfood

          I think its a bit harsh to punish companies for rolling over - especially as it looks like yet another way for lawyers to make business out of others suffering. In some cases it would be like kicking someone who handed over his lunch money to avoid a kicking.

          The apparent rolling over for little cost to the 'victim' that gives the troll seemingly more credibility in later court cases could constitute conspiracy but it really would be a bugger to prove.

          The US law needs changing so in cases like this should the troll loose they pay the others expenses - something that doesn't seem to happen much.

          Oh! And reduce US insane influence on the rest of the world so when they shit in their own yard we dont pick it up and worship it.

          1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

            Interesting ideas here

            But I still prefer my idea that, in order to sue someone about a patent of any sort, you have to be actually producing something with that patent and thus, demonstrate that others are damaging your sales.

            If you're not selling, I don't care how many people are infringing your patent, your right to sue is null and void and you're wasting the time of the courts.

            1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

              Re: Interesting ideas here

              There is small trouble with sales part:

              1. you might be selling license (designs and other intellectual property) rather than end product. For example see ARM.

              2. what if you sell your product elsewhere in the world, except USA? For example, because you do not feel like fighting patent trolls in US.

        2. wowfood

          Re: @wowfood

          I intended the first two suggestions to be sarcastic in many ways, it's like the idea of putting forward a really elaborate and stupid idea so that your actual idea seems more sensible. A bit like how Lisa gets homer to let her ride the bus.

          Homer: Yellow?

          Lisa: Dad?

          Homer: Who is this?

          Lisa: It's Lisa! I just called to tell you how much I love you and can I

          take the bus to the museum?

          Homer: Museum? I don't like the sound of that... what did your mother say?

          Lisa: Umm, I wasn't one hundred percent clear on that. She said something,

          but she was kind of in a rush to get Bart to the emergency room.

          Homer: Hmmm, so you wanna take the bus, huh? I don't know, that's a pretty

          big decision.

          Lisa: Well, if it would put your mind at ease I could take a limousine. But

          that would cost $200.

          Homer: $200?! Ohh, isn't there any other way?

          Lisa: Hmmm, I guess I could take the bus if you think that's a better idea.

          Homer: Frankly, I do. I know you had your heart set on the limo but sometimes

          daddy's have to say no, honey! I'm afraid you're gonna have to take the


          Lisa: [fakely sad] Alright.

          Ah the lessons the simpsons teach... But yeah of the aforementioned suggestions the third was really the only one I actually believe in, as stated the other two are far too novel / hard to regulate.

    2. Harry

      Re: There should be a "you didn't stand your ground" law

      A better law would be ... if you choose to pay because its cheaper than fighting, you get the automatic legal right to reclaim the payment if, at any time, the patent is declared invalid -- together with the automatic legal right to declare any settlement terms which prohibit such recovery as null and void.

      When such a patent is overturned, a criminal prosecution for extortion should also be considered if it seems that the company attempting to enforce the patent acquired it specifically for the purpose of such extortion.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: There should be a "you didn't stand your ground" law

        Making patents worthless

        So if one court in China/Russia/Texas decided that a local company didn't violate an Intel/ARM/etc patent then all their customers get all their license fees back ?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There should be a "you didn't stand your ground" law

          "Making patents worthless"

          Which would be the ideal result.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Clearly a game design opportunity

    Whack a troll ?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Absolutely disgusting that a 'university' should be involved in this. Remember when they were about the spreading of knowledge?

    They should be bloody ashamed of themselves.

    1. wowfood

      They should be... MONEY FIGHT!

      *Starts having a money fight with the uni of cali"

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hang on ... There were 2 points of law here...

    1) Is the patent valid and does the Troll own it?

    2) Is it inconvenient for the rest of us?

    Happily this patent was declared invalid.

    T Berners Lee and co support (2) and say nothing about (1) - assuming all Intellectual Property is simply 'fluff' generated for the benefit of humanity (and to enable Google, Apple and co to generate enormous profits). Bloody freetards!

    Question for the rest of us is: if they really DID own it , would they still be a "Troll" and would they deserve royalties?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      'Embedded Browser Technology' sounds like an Apple style bullshit patent that only get granted in the US because their system is so broken, so the answer is probably yes they did own it, but no it wasn't a sensible patent to give in the first place as it is so broad.

      Regardless, they launched the suit in 2009, so even if they did have a case, it's a bit fucking cheeky and opportunistic to let the web develop to the point it did before claiming that they have a patent from 1998 which means they should get royalties from any plugin or browser embedded technology. why didn't they enforce it when AJAX or Firefox extensions, etc, first came on the scene?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "Question for the rest of us is: if they really DID own it , would they still be a "Troll" and would they deserve royalties?"

      Another question, which idiot granted the patent in the first place?

      1. Frank Marsh

        The Examiner that issued the patent was Dinh C. Dung. But you really can't blame him/her. The Examiner is making $40 an hour and is up against lawyers making $300-$600 an hour and often not subject to the same hour constraints per case as the Examiner.

        More importantly the best prior art (which ultimately invalidated the patent) was not readily accessible to the Examiner. Probably the primary reason that so many bad software patents get issued. Examiners are only equipped to search other patents, not the myriad places where coding ideas may be found, like stackexchange, github, programming manuals, Unix source code, etc. Not a good situation.

        -US Patent Lawyer

    3. Tom 13

      Re: There were 2 points of law here...

      IF they had been enforcing it from the beginning I'd be more willing to consider the two points of law. The passage of time between between issuance and suit to me screams abuse of law. If it had been enforced at the start, we might have found a different way to implement the desired behavior. Or it might have been challenged and found overly broad at the outset.

      I suppose you could say my biggest objection to these kinds of suits is that they seek to change the rules in the middle of the game. Especially in this case where the university was previously promoting the free use of the idea.

    4. Frank Marsh

      Number 2 isn't really a point of law - simply Mr. Berners-Lee's correct analysis that this patent would be a huge tax on innovative companies.

      But in Court, they actually had to prove the patent was invalid, not just that its results would be counter-productive. Mr. Berners-Lee and others provided some compelling testimony that embedded objects already existed before this patent was filed. Thank Heavens.

  8. kmac499

    Just a thought;

    Has anyone patented the business model of declaring spurious, sorry wide ranging patents and then demanding money with menaces; sorry enforcing the holders rights by solicitors letter

    If not I claim that one and I'm off to see m'learned friend..

    1. Sven Coenye

      Too late

      Halliburton beat you to it. You owe them now...

      (Can't post linky but search El Reg for a 2008 article by Cade Metz)

    2. Frank Marsh

      IBM just patented some iterations of trolling, or as they say in lawyer-speak, "System and method for extracting value from a portfolio of assets"

      While amusing, the fact that it issued does not exactly cover the US patent system with glory.

      -US Patent Attorney

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As much as I'm pleased these trolls lost, I'm a bit concerned that a patent claim being "improperly disruptive" and that upholding it would "substantially impair the usability of the Web" is (partially) grounds to dismiss it.

    I'm sorry, but if I have a genuine patent and a genuine claim, just because the world+dog is abusing it and it's too critical to the world, that invalidates it? Clearly there were (I hope) other factors which actually invalidated it, and the above is just Berners-Lee's offered opinion, but it concerns me that's even a consideration.

    1. NukEvil

      "I'm sorry, but if I have a genuine patent and a genuine claim, just because the world+dog is abusing it and it's too critical to the world, that invalidates it?"

      No. However, if you have a genuine patent and a genuine claim, and wait until world+dog is abusing it (which is why it's so critical to the world) before launching your lawsuits, that does tend to help invalidate your genuine patent.

      For example, if you invent a new type of rubber hose, with one end closed off with the same material that the rest of the hose is made of, and you file a patent on it...then wait a couple decades and sue all the companies that are now mass-producing condoms, any court with a judge who is grounded anywhere in reality will see a big problem with you and your patent netting you any sort of payout.

  10. Dr_N Silver badge


    Sounds more like an elf than a troll....

    1. Al Jones

      Re: Eolas..

      It's Irish/Gaelic for Knowledge.

      Did the Register have comments back when Eolas took a big wodge of cash from Microsoft? I have a funny feeling that the tone of the comments might have been a bit more "pro-Troll" back then!

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