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Google, Win Trial Over Interactive Web Patents

Google Inc. and Inc. were among the companies that won a jury trial that challenged the validity of patents of a Texas business on ways to make the Internet more interactive.

A federal jury in Tyler, Texas, said two patents owned by Eolas Technologies Inc. of Tyler are invalid. Adobe Systems Inc., CDW Corp., JCPenney Co., Staples Inc., Yahoo! Inc. and Google’s YouTube unit were also challenging the patents.

Eolas and the University of California, which co-owns the patents because they stem from work by Michael Doyle, the Eolas founder and a former university researcher, claimed some basic Internet features used their technology, including music clips, search features, maps, advertisements and embedded applications.

More than a dozen companies had been named in the 2009 lawsuit. Apple Inc., Citigroup Inc. EBay Inc. and Playboy Enterprises Inc. were among companies that settled before trial.

The case was to have been tried in phases before U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis, with the first looking at the validity of the two patents, and then subsequent trials on infringement and damages by groups of companies. Today’s verdict eliminates the need for those later trials.

“We’re disappointed, but we respect the jury’s decision,” said Douglas Cawley of McKool Smith in Dallas, a lawyer for Eolas. “We will evaluate our options.”

Case Testimony

The verdict “affirms our assertion that the claims are without merit,” said Jim Prosser, a spokesman for Mountain View, California-based Google.

Testifying in the case were British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, credited with inventing the World Wide Web, and Pei-Yuan Wei, who developed an early web browser called Viola before Doyle, according to Wired magazine.

Eolas, then based in the Chicago area, had won a $521 million verdict against Microsoft Corp. in 2003, only to have it thrown out because the trial judge refused to let Microsoft present evidence about Viola to challenge the validity of Doyle’s first patent. The two sides settled the dispute in 2007.

The case is Eolas Technologies Inc. v. Adobe Systems Inc., 09cv446, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Tyler).

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