February 28, 2006 5:35 PM PST

Microsoft updates IE after patent spat

Microsoft on Tuesday made broadly available an Internet Explorer update related to a high-profile patent spat with a start-up backed by the University of California.

The update changes how the browser handles Web programs known as ActiveX controls. The changes can impact how certain sites display. Microsoft recommends Web developers tweak their pages or consumers will have to make an extra click to get to some content, such as Macromedia Flash-based animations or media content.

"We expect these changes will have little to no impact on customer experience and partner applications," a Microsoft representative said Tuesday.

Microsoft is modifying IE to shield itself from liability in a long-running patent dispute with Eolas Technologies and the University of California. Microsoft expects a second trial in the case to start sometime this year after a federal appeals court last March partially reversed a lower-court decision that exposed it to more than $500 million in damages.

In September, the U.S. Patent Office upheld the validity of the patent at issue in the case.

Microsoft is delivering the IE update in phases. The company last December said it would make the tweaks and a month later made the update available on MSDN, its Web site for developers. The update is now available to the general public as an optional download via Windows Update and Microsoft's Download Center Web site.

"Microsoft expects the vast majority of existing IE customers will download the update as part of ongoing security updates in the next four to six months," the Microsoft representative said.

The update is available for IE 6 on Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2003 with SP 1, the Microsoft representative said.

See more CNET content tagged:
Eolas Technologies Inc., representative, Microsoft Corp., Microsoft Internet Explorer, Web browser

36 comments

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Little or no impact!!! Are you kidding!!!
Microsoft says this will have little or no impact!!! Are you kidding, almost any site that uses flash is impacted - every flash component has to have an extra click to activate it, click to a new page, and the component has to be clicked again (ex. navigation bars in flash that lots of people use). They should just pay the $500M and settle before everyone moves over to Firefox that doesn't have this issue. The work around involves major recoding of almost every page that uses flash. Luckily our business uses flash in only a few places and isn't impacted, but don't tell people this will have little or no impact.
Posted by cocobongo04 (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why not just do the sensible thing and...
move to Firefox or Opera or any other alternative more modern
and simply better browser? IE is a rotting corpse anyway. Its
woefully out of date, it can't follow web standards and the effect
of its market share is to be a F**KING PITA for web development,
it forces proprietary tech down people's throats making the
internet a closed rather than open system. If this takes us one
step closer to IE's dominance of browser share falling even
further, then fantastic. Every cloud...

Quote:
"They should just pay the $500M and settle before everyone
moves over to Firefox that doesn't have this issue."
Posted by No invasion of privacy (52 comments )
Link Flag
Little or no impact!!! Are you kidding!!!
Microsoft says this will have little or no impact!!! Are you kidding, almost any site that uses flash is impacted - every flash component has to have an extra click to activate it, click to a new page, and the component has to be clicked again (ex. navigation bars in flash that lots of people use). They should just pay the $500M and settle before everyone moves over to Firefox that doesn't have this issue. The work around involves major recoding of almost every page that uses flash. Luckily our business uses flash in only a few places and isn't impacted, but don't tell people this will have little or no impact.
Posted by cocobongo04 (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Why not just do the sensible thing and...
move to Firefox or Opera or any other alternative more modern
and simply better browser? IE is a rotting corpse anyway. Its
woefully out of date, it can't follow web standards and the effect
of its market share is to be a F**KING PITA for web development,
it forces proprietary tech down people's throats making the
internet a closed rather than open system. If this takes us one
step closer to IE's dominance of browser share falling even
further, then fantastic. Every cloud...

Quote:
"They should just pay the $500M and settle before everyone
moves over to Firefox that doesn't have this issue."
Posted by No invasion of privacy (52 comments )
Link Flag
True, However...
This does totally stink for both Microsoft and the software development community at large. The validity of the patent is questionable in my opinion (based on surface-level research I did many moons ago). But the fact is, MS needs to protect its shareholders from additional risk from those who wish to thwart the legal system as a weapon. It's almost comical that in this situation it is a tiny organization that is causing the "big bad" MS so much trouble.

But for us web developers, there has been ample warning of this potential change for several years now. And it's actually very, very easy to work around this problem by using Geoff Stearns' FlashObject JavaScript code (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://blog.deconcept.com/flashobject/" target="_newWindow">http://blog.deconcept.com/flashobject/</a>). Using this method for Flash detection/insertion is incredibly easy and is (in general) better for most accessibility issues as well. But (now) most importantly, it also entirely circumvents the changes that MS has had to implement. So, if you just use a little JavaScript to perform your Flash insertion for you, not only will your XHTML actually be valid, but your users won;t get any dumb "click here to view media" warnings either. It is things like this that allowed MS to cofidently say that there will be minimal impact due to this change. They're probably right.
Posted by skyeflye (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The point is ...
that it requires web site developers to change their code and use this javascript method ... this may be fine for a simple site, but not for complex ones, every site I've visited so far that uses flash since the update has required this extra step, so not everyone has changed their code obviously.
Posted by cocobongo04 (9 comments )
Link Flag
True, However...
This does totally stink for both Microsoft and the software development community at large. The validity of the patent is questionable in my opinion (based on surface-level research I did many moons ago). But the fact is, MS needs to protect its shareholders from additional risk from those who wish to thwart the legal system as a weapon. It's almost comical that in this situation it is a tiny organization that is causing the "big bad" MS so much trouble.

But for us web developers, there has been ample warning of this potential change for several years now. And it's actually very, very easy to work around this problem by using Geoff Stearns' FlashObject JavaScript code (<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://blog.deconcept.com/flashobject/" target="_newWindow">http://blog.deconcept.com/flashobject/</a>). Using this method for Flash detection/insertion is incredibly easy and is (in general) better for most accessibility issues as well. But (now) most importantly, it also entirely circumvents the changes that MS has had to implement. So, if you just use a little JavaScript to perform your Flash insertion for you, not only will your XHTML actually be valid, but your users won;t get any dumb "click here to view media" warnings either. It is things like this that allowed MS to cofidently say that there will be minimal impact due to this change. They're probably right.
Posted by skyeflye (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The point is ...
that it requires web site developers to change their code and use this javascript method ... this may be fine for a simple site, but not for complex ones, every site I've visited so far that uses flash since the update has required this extra step, so not everyone has changed their code obviously.
Posted by cocobongo04 (9 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft execs couldn't be happier...
Despite the clear 'prior-art' implications on the patent dispute
with Eolas, Microsoft will choose to 'lose' the patent case by
throwing a poorly resourced defense at it. If Eolas prevails in the
suit, then guess who loses out? Not Microsoft - they will tout
their new WPF 'Sparkle' technology as the 'legal' way to present
interactive media on the web. The real losers are the general
public; users will be bombarded with 'click here to continue'
buttons all over the web whenever they try to play a Quicktime
movie, view a PDF, or visit a site that uses Flash. Microsoft will
just lay down and pretend that there's nothing they can do,
while gleefully watching their competition (Adobe &#38; Apple)
suffer. Despite the JS workarounds that can be (sometimes)
implemented, it will task developers (millions of them) to carry
the water if the plug-ins are to survive. How convenient for
Microsoft - this is just another example of how they 'compete'.
Posted by bitjunky (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
simple solution
Dont install the upgrade. Who is forcing you? Will your browser suddenly break? The answer is really very simple.
Posted by R Me (196 comments )
Link Flag
You are absolutely right
You are absolutely right, Microsoft is the real winner here.
It is a little bit difficult to explain to average public why/how Microsoft is the real winner here, but you have done a good job of starting it.
More about why this is so:
Under the disguise of fighting/adhering to this patent Microsoft is also validating the value of its own massive Patent portfolio, as well as doing same for other patent holders such as IBM, etc.
I mean what is $500Mill for Microsoft, not a drop in the bucket.
So they will gladly pay the $500Mill to this nothing Eolas company, but with this action then:
1- They are forcing Millions of developers to upgrade to the latest MS stuff
2- Indirectly validating the value of their own Patent portfolio because where as threat of $500Mill law suit means really nothing to MS, it does mean "death" to most companies.

So now if you are saying: "hey did MS hire Eolas to file this suit...." You may be on target :)
Posted by 207495111267145837975635436522 (58 comments )
Link Flag
Poor speculation
You couldn't be futher off base. MS fought this hard but they're in a worse position than the Blackberry situation where at least the patents were declared invalid because in this case the mindless fools at the Patent Office decided this was still a valid patent despite it's obvious nature and prior implementations.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft execs couldn't be happier...
Despite the clear 'prior-art' implications on the patent dispute
with Eolas, Microsoft will choose to 'lose' the patent case by
throwing a poorly resourced defense at it. If Eolas prevails in the
suit, then guess who loses out? Not Microsoft - they will tout
their new WPF 'Sparkle' technology as the 'legal' way to present
interactive media on the web. The real losers are the general
public; users will be bombarded with 'click here to continue'
buttons all over the web whenever they try to play a Quicktime
movie, view a PDF, or visit a site that uses Flash. Microsoft will
just lay down and pretend that there's nothing they can do,
while gleefully watching their competition (Adobe &#38; Apple)
suffer. Despite the JS workarounds that can be (sometimes)
implemented, it will task developers (millions of them) to carry
the water if the plug-ins are to survive. How convenient for
Microsoft - this is just another example of how they 'compete'.
Posted by bitjunky (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
simple solution
Dont install the upgrade. Who is forcing you? Will your browser suddenly break? The answer is really very simple.
Posted by R Me (196 comments )
Link Flag
You are absolutely right
You are absolutely right, Microsoft is the real winner here.
It is a little bit difficult to explain to average public why/how Microsoft is the real winner here, but you have done a good job of starting it.
More about why this is so:
Under the disguise of fighting/adhering to this patent Microsoft is also validating the value of its own massive Patent portfolio, as well as doing same for other patent holders such as IBM, etc.
I mean what is $500Mill for Microsoft, not a drop in the bucket.
So they will gladly pay the $500Mill to this nothing Eolas company, but with this action then:
1- They are forcing Millions of developers to upgrade to the latest MS stuff
2- Indirectly validating the value of their own Patent portfolio because where as threat of $500Mill law suit means really nothing to MS, it does mean "death" to most companies.

So now if you are saying: "hey did MS hire Eolas to file this suit...." You may be on target :)
Posted by 207495111267145837975635436522 (58 comments )
Link Flag
Poor speculation
You couldn't be futher off base. MS fought this hard but they're in a worse position than the Blackberry situation where at least the patents were declared invalid because in this case the mindless fools at the Patent Office decided this was still a valid patent despite it's obvious nature and prior implementations.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Blame Eolas, not Microsoft
The knee-jerk reaction against Microsoft is misdirected. These changes will be required by every browser (including Firefox) and application that uses inline object activation.

Microsoft just bit the bullet first because they got sued.
Posted by Betty Roper (121 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't blame Microsoft...
I don't blame Microsoft for the problem - but you can be sure that
instead of steadfastly defending their rights, they will opt to set a
precedent that will improve their bottom line - despite the patent
absurdity (pun intended) of the suit. Once MS rolls over, all the
other browsers will have to follow - and they know it. It's a sad
commentary on the integrity of businesses these days; their
shareholders will insist on the 'acceptance' of yet another bogus
claim of intellectual property just to pad their wallets...
Posted by bitjunky (8 comments )
Link Flag
Correct. The Patent Is Valid
I was asked to look at this patent by someone associated with it. IANAL but I can read and I do have a certain amount of experience with the history of the technology.

1. The patent is valid. That doesn't mean there isn't prior art. A patent reviewer examines essential claims given an approved list of prior art with notarized dates or other supporting material such as time stamped email. In the review, the prior art was submitted by W3C members. A patent review is a logical dependency examination given the precise terms of the claims and the descriptions of the prior art. The logic of the claims and the reviewer are solid. It is the case that those seeking to overturn such claims may want to go further than their own backyard in finding prior art in the future, but the patent examiner's job was thorough and professional and the conclusions are logically valid.

2. To keep from violating a patent, the implementor has to find at least one step in their implementation that breaks the dependency graph. That is what Microsoft is doing and those doing Firefox and Opera work will have to do the same.

3. The holder of the patent has stated publicly that he intended to work against Microsoft to the favor of other competitors. So if EOLAS has not yet filed suit against these competitors, nothing obligates him to do so or to exercise restraint in the future. Caveat vendor.

Patents have become currency. Smart investors and companies are doing what they must to defend and provide for the success of their companies, customers and other stakeholders. If the result of the legally established claims is to break existing web pages, that is not the fault of Microsoft or any other vendor. It is not the fault of EOLAS in a business sense even if it is a breach of trust with a greater community. It is a caveat emptor condition but that is the condition under which the World Wide Web, a largely unregulated entity, operates at all times.

So suck it up and fix your script, kiddies.
Posted by (101 comments )
Link Flag
Blame Eolas, not Microsoft
The knee-jerk reaction against Microsoft is misdirected. These changes will be required by every browser (including Firefox) and application that uses inline object activation.

Microsoft just bit the bullet first because they got sued.
Posted by Betty Roper (121 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't blame Microsoft...
I don't blame Microsoft for the problem - but you can be sure that
instead of steadfastly defending their rights, they will opt to set a
precedent that will improve their bottom line - despite the patent
absurdity (pun intended) of the suit. Once MS rolls over, all the
other browsers will have to follow - and they know it. It's a sad
commentary on the integrity of businesses these days; their
shareholders will insist on the 'acceptance' of yet another bogus
claim of intellectual property just to pad their wallets...
Posted by bitjunky (8 comments )
Link Flag
Correct. The Patent Is Valid
I was asked to look at this patent by someone associated with it. IANAL but I can read and I do have a certain amount of experience with the history of the technology.

1. The patent is valid. That doesn't mean there isn't prior art. A patent reviewer examines essential claims given an approved list of prior art with notarized dates or other supporting material such as time stamped email. In the review, the prior art was submitted by W3C members. A patent review is a logical dependency examination given the precise terms of the claims and the descriptions of the prior art. The logic of the claims and the reviewer are solid. It is the case that those seeking to overturn such claims may want to go further than their own backyard in finding prior art in the future, but the patent examiner's job was thorough and professional and the conclusions are logically valid.

2. To keep from violating a patent, the implementor has to find at least one step in their implementation that breaks the dependency graph. That is what Microsoft is doing and those doing Firefox and Opera work will have to do the same.

3. The holder of the patent has stated publicly that he intended to work against Microsoft to the favor of other competitors. So if EOLAS has not yet filed suit against these competitors, nothing obligates him to do so or to exercise restraint in the future. Caveat vendor.

Patents have become currency. Smart investors and companies are doing what they must to defend and provide for the success of their companies, customers and other stakeholders. If the result of the legally established claims is to break existing web pages, that is not the fault of Microsoft or any other vendor. It is not the fault of EOLAS in a business sense even if it is a breach of trust with a greater community. It is a caveat emptor condition but that is the condition under which the World Wide Web, a largely unregulated entity, operates at all times.

So suck it up and fix your script, kiddies.
Posted by (101 comments )
Link Flag
MS loves this law suit,
Microsoft is the real winner here of this Eolas law suit, that is why MS has been so poorly defending it.
It is a little bit difficult to explain to average public why/how Microsoft is the real winner here, but here:
Under the disguise of fighting/adhering to this patent Microsoft is also validating the value of its own massive Patent portfolio, as well as doing same for other patent holders such as IBM, etc.
I mean what is $500Mill for Microsoft, not a drop in the bucket.
So they will gladly pay the $500Mill to this nothing Eolas company, but with this action then:
1- They are forcing Millions of developers to upgrade to the latest MS stuff, or else your web site will not display correctly under new IE because MS had to adhere to this patent filing!
2- Indirectly validate the value of their own Patent portfolio because whereas threat of $500Mill law suit means really nothing to MS, it does mean "death" to most companies.

So now if you are saying: "hey did MS hire Eolas to file this suit...." You may be on target :)
Posted by 207495111267145837975635436522 (58 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another foolish analysis
MS does not like this suit at all. You mention the huge MS portfolio of patents but you neglect to see the fact that MS isn't suing anyone for their use of MS patented technology. MS's portfolio appears to be a defensive manuever that allows it to avoid other patents like this one by cross-licensing their patented technology, a strategy that works with valid companies but not against companies like Eolas which hold patents but produce only lawsuits.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
MS loves this law suit,
Microsoft is the real winner here of this Eolas law suit, that is why MS has been so poorly defending it.
It is a little bit difficult to explain to average public why/how Microsoft is the real winner here, but here:
Under the disguise of fighting/adhering to this patent Microsoft is also validating the value of its own massive Patent portfolio, as well as doing same for other patent holders such as IBM, etc.
I mean what is $500Mill for Microsoft, not a drop in the bucket.
So they will gladly pay the $500Mill to this nothing Eolas company, but with this action then:
1- They are forcing Millions of developers to upgrade to the latest MS stuff, or else your web site will not display correctly under new IE because MS had to adhere to this patent filing!
2- Indirectly validate the value of their own Patent portfolio because whereas threat of $500Mill law suit means really nothing to MS, it does mean "death" to most companies.

So now if you are saying: "hey did MS hire Eolas to file this suit...." You may be on target :)
Posted by 207495111267145837975635436522 (58 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another foolish analysis
MS does not like this suit at all. You mention the huge MS portfolio of patents but you neglect to see the fact that MS isn't suing anyone for their use of MS patented technology. MS's portfolio appears to be a defensive manuever that allows it to avoid other patents like this one by cross-licensing their patented technology, a strategy that works with valid companies but not against companies like Eolas which hold patents but produce only lawsuits.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
How to disable this "feature"
MS has information on this (anti-)feature in KB 912945 at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://support.microsoft.com/kb/912945" target="_newWindow">http://support.microsoft.com/kb/912945</a>

For as long as this is not baked into a massive roll-up package for IE, you can use Windows Add/Remove programs to remove "Update for Windows XP (KB912945)". You may need to check the "show updates" checkbox at the top of the window.

Lastly I'll mention that I've inflicted a PC with this insult-to-common-sense-and-usability, and Microsoft did a good job. (..I can't believe I said that, and sure, I'd rather it never have been done..) It's not a dialog box, just a little tooltip. And you only need to click if you were going to click anyway. (So, the poor user will probably develop the habit of double-clicking flash/quicktime/applets that first time.)

Flash swfs are still running even if not clicked on. Ads will be as irritating as ever. (ahrg!) From a usability perspective, it's only a little painful.
Posted by jrw88 (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How to disable this "feature"
MS has information on this (anti-)feature in KB 912945 at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://support.microsoft.com/kb/912945" target="_newWindow">http://support.microsoft.com/kb/912945</a>

For as long as this is not baked into a massive roll-up package for IE, you can use Windows Add/Remove programs to remove "Update for Windows XP (KB912945)". You may need to check the "show updates" checkbox at the top of the window.

Lastly I'll mention that I've inflicted a PC with this insult-to-common-sense-and-usability, and Microsoft did a good job. (..I can't believe I said that, and sure, I'd rather it never have been done..) It's not a dialog box, just a little tooltip. And you only need to click if you were going to click anyway. (So, the poor user will probably develop the habit of double-clicking flash/quicktime/applets that first time.)

Flash swfs are still running even if not clicked on. Ads will be as irritating as ever. (ahrg!) From a usability perspective, it's only a little painful.
Posted by jrw88 (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Even more impact that you might think
If you read the notes from Microsoft, it seems to me that each and every embedded control (ActiveX, Applet, Flash, etc.) has to be individually enabled.

If you leave a page and come back to it in the same browser session, it has to be enabled again.

I think many users will complain about it. Good news is that many places will have it fixed. Bad news is that this means a double-click won't always be the right behavior, as someone else suggested.

I expect a stormy few months.
Posted by bernardf (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Even more impact that you might think
If you read the notes from Microsoft, it seems to me that each and every embedded control (ActiveX, Applet, Flash, etc.) has to be individually enabled.

If you leave a page and come back to it in the same browser session, it has to be enabled again.

I think many users will complain about it. Good news is that many places will have it fixed. Bad news is that this means a double-click won't always be the right behavior, as someone else suggested.

I expect a stormy few months.
Posted by bernardf (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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