Interesting article in Information Week about another broad patent which may lead to a RIM-like showdown.

Another big patent fight may be looming. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted a broad patent that could force tens of thousands of businesses to pay royalties for processes that have become standard at many companies. The patent awarded to Neil Balthaser and his tiny San Francisco Web-site development company, Balthaser Online, covers the use of rich-media applications over the Internet.

The patent--issued on Valentine's Day--covers all rich-media technology implementations, including those that employ tools such as Flash, Flex, Java, Ajax, and XAML, when the rich-media application is accessed by any device over the Internet. Balthaser doesn't claim his patent covers the tools themselves, only the rich-media Internet apps they help create. Examples range from interior decorating software to Google Earth to streaming audio.

Read the issued patent.

According to the article, they are claiming it would have no impact on the tools, but rather only cover the resulting applications. I just skimmed the claims, but it definitely seems like the focus is on the creation of those applications on-line as opposed to the applications themselves. 

I echo David Temkin's response on Ajax Developer's Journal:

First, the Balthaser press release stakes out much more territory than the patent claims seem to indicate: While the press release states that any rich media application, in any format, is covered by the patent, the crux of the patent seems to describe a technique for creating a rich media application on-line, like a hosted IDE or on-line design tool. Secondly, I believe that there is a significant amount of relevant, unpatented, prior art. The attention that Balthaser is drawing to the patent with its bold press release increases the chance that this work will be found and brought to the attention of the PTO.

I'd expect this to sort itself out in due time. The sky is not falling. But if you're in the "rich media" business, be prepared to hear from a lot of Chicken Littles over the next few months.

Well said David. Let's hope it does. If nothing else, I can definitely offer some prior art on the application side.


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