Microsoft fined US$520m in browser patent case

12 Aug 2003

Microsoft has been fined US$520m for breaching a patent with its Internet Explorer web browser. A jury in Chicago ruled that a part of Explorer that is designed to enable extra functions through ‘plug-ins’ was actually patented by a small company in Chicago as well as the University of California.

The jury decided that the two entities should be paid US$1.47 for every copy of the Microsoft Windows operating system that has been sold between 1997 and 2001.

A disappointed Microsoft has vowed to appeal the decision.

The Chicago company, called Eolas, said in court that the functions described in its patent had been incorporated into Explorer without its permission.

Microsoft’s decision to package Explorer into its Windows operating system for free has been at the centre of a number of high profile court battles over whether Microsoft has a monopoly in the software industry and whether or not it had abused its position.

While the anti-trust case in the US has been more or less wrapped up, with Microsoft being found guilty of bundling Explorer with Windows to crush competitor Netscape, the European Commission is still pushing forward its own investigation. The Commission says it has ample evidence to say that Microsoft has been abusing its position, particularly in the server and audio visual markets.

By John Kennedy