Over the past few years patent suits over technologies has become commonplace in our society. The latest one though takes the patent fight to a whole new level. In fact the outcome of this suit could determine the future of the world wide web.
Michael Doyle, founder of Eolas technologies, has filed a lawsuit in Tyler, Texas claiming that several internet companies have infringed on his patent. According to Mr. Doyle back in 1993 he was the first to invent a process to view streaming video online and his patent proves that he owns the “interactive web”.
“We call it the interactive web,” said Doyle on the stand. “These models could be used to model healthy babies, and plan inter-uterine surgery.”
The question is was he really the first? Can that process be patented? And who really owns the web? In answer to the first question Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with building the web, and Pei-Yuan Wei they say no that there were a few people that had come up with browser and view pictures before Mr. Doyle. Mr. Wei goes on to talk about having the idea for the same interactive system in 1991 and demonstrating it to Sun Microsystems in 1993 a few months before Mr. Doyle.
In answer on whether this a software process like this should be patented Mr. Berners-Lee said that in his opinion no it shouldn’t. When asked about why he didn’t patent the web he gave the following answer. “The internet was already around. I was taking hypertext, and it was around a long time too. I was taking stuff we knew how to do…. All I was doing was putting together bits that had been around for years in a particular combination to meet the needs that I have.”
“[My book] is the story of those times — inventing it, and not so much inventing but the social process of trying to get everyone to use the same standards. The reason the Web took off is not because it was a magic idea, but because I persuaded everyone to use HTML and HTTP.”
If Mr. Doyle ends up winning the suit then several companies that offer videos and searching could end up owing Mr. Doyle millions of dollars. That could very well also force those same companies to cease using those systems making the web unrecognizable to many of many of the younger people that use it today.
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