A federal appeals court ordered a new jury trial yesterday to decide whether Microsoft Corp. must pay more than $520 million in damages to a Chicago inventor for patent infringement on browser technology used to call up computer "plug-ins" and applications.
The ruling casts doubt on one of the largest patent-infringement awards in history and prolongs a six-year legal battle that has far-reaching implications for scores of Internet companies and millions of Web users.
Inventor Michael Doyle of Eolas Technologies Inc. and the University of California claim that Microsoft illegally incorporated their patented technology into its Internet Explorer browser to defend its Windows empire at a critical time in the World Wide Web's development.
Microsoft argued that the technology was not novel and should not have been patented. It noted a browser demonstration by software developer Pei-Yuan Wei more than a year before Doyle's invention.
A federal judge in Chicago ruled in 2003 that a trial jury should not consider Wei's Viola browser or Microsoft's claims that Doyle should have disclosed his knowledge of Viola to patent examiners.
The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington ordered a new trial on those issues. It upheld rulings regarding other issues, including infringement and the basis for the damage award.
The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.