Microsoft tweaks browser to avoid liability

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Microsoft tweaks browser to avoid liability

Richard M. Smith
By Ina Fried  
Staff Writer, CNET

Published: December 2, 2005, 2:00 PM PST

Microsoft is changing the way its Web browser handles certain controls in an
effort to shield itself from liability in an ongoing patent spat with a
start-up backed by the University of California.

The software giant is notifying Web developers and other partners on Friday
that it is changing the way Internet Explorer handles certain Web programs,
known as ActiveX controls and Java applets.

With the change, Web developers will need to slightly modify their pages or
consumers will have to make an extra click to get to some content, such as
for a Macromedia Flash-based advertisement.

"We think that the user experience impact is relatively modest," said
Michael Wallent, a general manager in Microsoft's Windows-client unit.

Microsoft will incorporate the new version of Internet Explorer into all new
copies of Windows and also into the next version of the browser, IE 7, which
will be available for Windows XP, Windows Server 2003 and as part of Windows
Vista. Existing users may also get the new code as part of future security
updates, Wallent said.

"We believe over the next six months, most customers will be running copies
of Internet Explorer with this behavior."

Microsoft has been in a long-running spat with Eolas Techologies and the
University of California. In September, the U.S. Patent Office upheld the
validity of the patent at issue in the case.

A University of California spokesman said that its lawsuit against Microsoft
deals with infringement caused by previously sold versions of the browser.

"The lawsuit covers sales predating this latest reconfiguration," he said.