MediaFile

Trolling for a tech showdown

The scene: A federal courtroom in Tyler, Texas.

The drama: A lawsuit by a patent troll who said he owned the rights to the “interactive web.” The troll says he’s owed some back rent for owning the Web we all use every day.

Dramatis persona: Tim Berners-Lee. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. He invented the World Wide Web.

Oh, to have been in Tyler. It was the stage for a showdown in one of the most bizarre patent troll cases ever, pitting (metaphorically if not in fact) expert witness Berners-Lee against some punk who wanted to make his name by taking out a very, very big gun in a shootout. The plaintiff, Eolas, claimed it owned patents that entitled it to royalties from anyone whose website used “interactive” features, like pictures that the visitor can manipulate, or streaming video. The claim, by Eolas’s owner, Chicago biologist Michael Doyle, was that his was the first computer program enabling an “interactive web.”

If Texas was still the Wild West this might have been settled at High Noon at some dusty, just O.K. Corral, with single-action Colt .45 revolvers. There was no gunplay, but for geekdom the calm morning testimony in an air-conditioned courtroom was just as exciting.

On Wednesday, Jennifer Doan, a Texarkana lawyer representing defendants Yahoo and Amazon, examined Berners-Lee for the plaintiffs, which include Google, Amazon and Yahoo. An excerpt from Wired‘s report:

Dot-Com: ‘Three Letters and a Punctuation Mark’ That Changed the World

DellTwenty five years ago, on March 15, 1985, the first commercial dot-com domain name – Symbolics.com – was born. It was one of only six dot-com domain names registered that year (Among the 15 oldest are Northrop.com, Xerox.com, HP.com, IBM.com, Sun.com, Intel.com, TI.com and ATT.com.)

A lot has happened between then and now: the fall of the Berlin wall, the dot com boom and bust, two Gulf wars, Sept. 11, at least one major global economic crisis and the creations of YouTube and Facebook. To give you an impression of the passage of time, REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” had just succeeded “Careless Whisper” by Wham! on the U.S. pop charts.

Today there are more than 80 million websites and the Internet, for many, is nearly as omnipresent as air.