While no one in the US seems to want to do anything about its bizarre patent system, it seems one man is going to try and screw the system for all it’s worth.
Michael Doyle claims that it was actually he and two co-inventors who invented, and patented, the “interactive web” before anyone else, while they were employed by the University of California in 1993.
He claims that the program he created at the UC’s San Francisco campus, which allowed doctors to view embryos over the nascent World Wide Web, was the first program that allowed users to interact with images inside of a web browser window.
According to Wired which is following the case, Doyle is fighting in East Texas which has a history of giving over to patent trolls, usually because their side of the argument is the easiest for juries to understand.
He is now suing almost everyone you can think of claiming he is owed trillions for royalty payments for practically all modern web technologies.
Doyle has a history of winning patent cases. His outfit Eolas Technologies has already brought Microsoft to its knees, probably winning more than $100 million from the Vole.
But this case pits him against the finest legal minds in the world from Yahoo, Google, Amazon and YouTube. It also has shoved him against the web’s father. Sir Tim Berners-Lee himself (pictured) has flown in for the case because if Doyle wins it will be the end of the web. Everyone would have to pay something to some patent troll in the US.
The W3C, the global web standards group, contacted the patent office directly, sending a letter signed by Sir Tim warning that unless the Eolas patent was invalidated it would cause the “disruption of global web standards” and cause “substantial economic and technical damage to the operation of the World Wide Web.”
The PTO initially rejected the Eolas patent claims in re-examinations, but Doyle and his lawyers insisted they had the right to some kind of patent claim and the PTO changed its mind. This change of heart is being used by Doyle’s lawyers as proof that other people agree he invented the internet.
The tech companies in the case asked to transfer the case to California, where it is more likely to have been laughed out of court, but Judge Leonard Davis, who is overseeing the case, refused. This was because Doyle sued six Texas companies to make sure that the case was heard in that state.
Earlier this week, Sir Tim repeated his argument he made in Scientific American in 2010 that patents could kill the web and that this case is a nightmare that may be about to come true.
The situation is also embarrassing for the University of California which could make lots of money if Doyle wins. However, it is also about to become a leper in the technology industry, and could even end up with its students being blacklisted by IT.