The US Patent and Trademark office has rejected patent claims regarding browser technology held by Eolas.

The patent is owned by the University of California and licensed exclusively to Eolas, and describes the way browsers handle third-party plug-ins, with particular regard to multimedia.

Citing "sources" CNet reports that: "In the second of what are projected to be three office actions on the case, the Patent Office rejected all ten patent claims under review".

In 1998 the US Patent and Trademark Office granted the university patent number 5,838,906, which covers technology for embedding interactive elements in Web pages.

The following year, the university and Eolas Technologies (the sole licensee of the technology) sued Microsoft for infringing on the patent in Windows and Internet Explorer. The plaintiffs won the case in August 2003 and Microsoft was ordered to pay $521 million in damages.

Outcome remains uncertain

While Microsoft and other companies involved in online multimedia and browser technology may be happy now, Eolas has"at least" one more chance to argue its case. If it prevails then others will have to license the patent to run multimedia within browsers. Finding a workaround could disrupt the Web.

Reacting to this Internet luminary Sir Tim Berners-Lee made a personal appeal to the US Patent and Trademark office, encouraging it to "reexamine" the granting of that patent: "In order to prevent substantial economic and technical damage to the operation of World Wide Web."

He argued that object-embedding technology covered by the patent has "been part of the HTML standard since the early days of the Web."