The next round in Microsoft’s Web browser patent fight will unfold in an obscure bureaucratic proceeding that offers the company and its allies few, if any, chances to argue their side.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) last month issued a preliminary finding that appeared to tip the closely watched case in Microsoft’s favor: A patent licensed by Eolas Technologies at the heart of a $521 million infringement verdict against the software giant may have been wrongly granted, the agency acknowledged.
Microsoft was quick to tout the findings as a victory–an outcome that would save it a considerable amount of money and allow it to avoid rewriting portions of its Internet Explorer browser. Standards body the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has joined Microsoft’s side, arguing that a loss for the company would wreak havoc with millions of Web pages.
But legal experts said last month’s preliminary finding in Microsoft’s favor, coming just months into what will likely be a years-long process, is far from the last word.
“In the long term this doesn’t make a heck of a lot of difference,” said Greg Aharonian, editor and publisher of the Internet Patent News Service and a prominent critic of the USPTO. “This will probably wind up in front of the court of appeals at some point. Right now I wouldn’t bet any money on the outcome, because there are too many fifty-fifties all around.”