The patent–issued on Valentine’s Day–covers all rich-media technology implementations, including Flash, Flex, Java, Ajax, and XAML, when the rich-media application is accessed on any device over the Internet, according to the patent holders.
A patent has been granted to a relatively unknown California Web-design firm for an invention its creator says covers the design and creation of most rich-media applications used over the Internet. The patent holder, Balthaser Online Inc., says it could license nearly any rich-media Internet application across a broad range of devices and networks.
Potentially tens of thousands of businesses–not only software makers employing its business processes but companies offering rich-media on their Websites–could be subject to licensing fees when they use rich-media technology over the Internet.
The patent–issued on Valentine’s Day–covers all rich-media technology implementations, including Flash, Flex, Java, Ajax, and XAML, when the rich-media application is accessed on any device over the Internet, including desktops, mobile devices, set-top boxes, and video game consoles, says inventor Neil Balthaser, CEO of Balthaser Online, which he owns with his father Ken. “You can consider it a pioneering or umbrella patent. The broader claim is one that basically says that if you got a rich Internet application, it is covered by this patent.”
“It’s kind of unbelievable that [the patent] has such a wide ranging use because it covers so many technologies,” says Bola Rotibi, a senior analyst at Ovum, an IT advisory firm in London. If the patent is enforced broadly, she says, “anybody who does anything with rich applications will have to pay royalties to the company.”
The patent, No. 7,000,180 or 180 for short, is entitled Methods, Systems, And Processes For The Design And Creation Of Rich-Media Applications Via The Internet. It contains 83 claims that encompass a wide range of rich-media Net application methods, systems, and processes.
How broad is the patent? Here’s what the patent abstract says it covers: A host computer, containing processes for creating rich-media applications, is accessed from a remote user computer system via an Internet connection. User account information and rich-media component specifications are uploaded over the Internet for a specific user account. Rich-media applications are created, deleted, or modified in a user account, with rich-media components added to, modified in, or deleted from the rich-media application based on information contained in a user request. After creation, the rich-media application is viewed or saved on the host computer system, or downloaded to the user computer system over the Internet.
Because he began developing the methods and processes more than a half decade ago, he believes he can prove his invention is novel and nonobvious, two requirements to get a patent, and can fend off any patent challenges from potential licensees who might contend the invention is neither new nor obscure. “Are we ready to defend our patent?” Balthaser asks. “Absolutely. We’re ready to defend it vigorously if we have to. But [litigation is] not the approach we’re taking in terms of licensing.”