Ding dong, the troll is dead! Ars Technica with a great description of the Eolas web patent fiasco, and the UC system’s sorry role. I blame Bayh-Dole for creating this insane mindset where places of learning are forced to “monetize” their research.
Under Doyle’s conception of his own invention, practically any modern website owed him royalties. Playing a video online or rotating an image on a shopping website were “interactive” features that infringed his patents. And unlike many “patent trolls” who simply settle for settlements just under the cost of litigation, Doyle’s company had the chops, the lawyers, and the early filing date needed to extract tens of millions of dollars from the accused companies. […] The role of the University of California is one of the most perplexing twists in the Eolas saga. The university kept a low profile during the lead-up to trial; but once in Texas, Eolas lawyers constantly reminded the jury they were asserting “these University of California patents.” A lawyer from UC’s patent-licensing division described support for Eolas at trial by simply saying that the university “stands by its licensees.” (Eolas was technically an exclusive licensee of the UC-owned patent, which also gives it the right to sue.) At the same time, the University of California, and the Berkeley campus in particular, was a key institution in creating early web technology. While UC lawyers cooperated with the plaintiffs, two UC Berkeley-trained computer scientists were key witnesses in the effort to demolish the Eolas patents. Pei-Yuan Wei created the pioneering Viola browser, a key piece of prior art, while he was a student at UC-Berkeley in the early 1990s. Scott Silvey, another UC-Berkeley student at that time, testified about a program he made called VPlot, which allowed users to rotate an image of an airplane using Wei’s browser. VPlot and Viola were demonstrated to Sun Microsystems in May 1993, months before Doyle claimed to have conceived of his invention.
Mr Rabbitte says that legal concerns attached to mandatory filters, as well as a fear of imposing censorship, have persuaded him against trying to force ISPs to impose mandatory pornography-blocking internet filters. “I remain to be convinced that blanket censorship or a default-on blocker is the correct or workable response,” he said. “Even if it were possible to ensure that such measures were not easily circumvented or didn’t inadvertently block perfectly acceptable content, the principled question of whether the State should be encouraging service providers to filter or block content to all users, regardless of whether there are children resident, would still arise.”
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