At the heart of the case is a patent granted to the University of California but administered by Eolas, a firm set up in 1994 by the inventors of the technology described in the patent to capitalise upon it.
The patent, number 5,838,906, was filed in October 1994 and granted in November 1998. Essentially, it describes how a user can use a web browser to access and execute a remotely stored program object that has been embedded in a web page.
Eolas contended that Microsoft's ActiveX technology does just that and more to the point does so without Eolas' permission. Its 1999 suit originally named Windows 95 and 98, and Internet Explorer as offending items, and demanded they be banned from sale.
Microsoft said it would appeal the decision in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. "We're confident the facts will support our position," said a spokesperson. The company's official line is: "We believe the evidence will ultimately show that there was no infringement of any kind, and that the accused feature in our browser technology was developed by our own engineers based on preexisting Microsoft technology."
Eolas' legal representation, Martin Lueck, a member of law firm Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi, said: "We think the verdict is vindication that Microsoft has made extensive use of Eolas' technology to make its Internet Explorer the best-of-breed browser."