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Microsoft has announced that they’ll be changing the way IE handles ActiveX controls and Java applets to avoid liability in the Eolas patent suit.

The suit, you’ll recall, is about a patent held by the University of California and licenced to a company called Eolas. The patent ostensibly covers embedding multimedia and interactive widgets within web pages. Eolas and the UC say that Microsoft (and presumably just about every other browser maker on the planet) violates their patent with the way Internet Explorer handles ActiveX controls (such as the Flash plugin) and Java applets. The patent is viewed by many people as too vague, overly broad and in fact not valid due to other people’s prior work in this field. In fact, the W3C and Tim Berners Lee filed evidence against the patent with the U.S. patent office.

Nevertheless, the courts seem to be less persuaded of Microsoft’s case than does the W3C and Microsoft is now changing IE to avoid continuing liability. As a result, millions of web pages will have to be modified lest visitors be forced to click a button on a dialogue in order to view, say, Flash banner ads. While some may see blocking Flash banners by default as a feature, advertisers — and consequently the folks buidling web pages that carry their ads — disagree quite strongly.

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