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Originally scheduled for November, the case is now set for trial in April in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. At the heart of the complicated eBay-MercExchange fight is a series of patents applied for in the spring of 1995 by Tom Woolston (founder of MercExchange), some five months before eBay founder Pierre Omidyar launched his site.

Woolston’s patents cover methods of creating and searching online marketplaces and auctions identical to those used by eBay. The question is just how much information was contained in the original or “parent” patent and is the world’s online marketplace guilty of infringement?

At a recent and long drawn out hearing the companies sparred over the meaning of nearly every term used in the three patents that are at issue in the case. On some points Judge Friedman ruled in favour of eBay and in others he sided with MercExchange. He threw out 20 of the 52 claims in one of the patents – such as that relating to charging fees or commissions to a seller’s account – but has allowed two others to go to trial intact.