Internet rich-media patent battle looms


Internet rich-media patent battle looms

Antony Savvas

A tiny San Francisco website development company has been awarded a US patent covering the use of rich-media applications on the internet, which could signal the beginning of a big patent battle involving most of the internet’s main development technologies.

The patent has been awarded to Neil Balthaser and the Balthaser Online company he runs. The patent covers all rich-media technology implementations, including those relying on the widely used Flash, Flex, Java, Ajax, and XAML platforms.

The patent doesn’t cover such tools themselves, only the rich-media internet applications they can help create. This could include streaming audio or internet-based location tracking software, for instance.

“The considerable value of the patent in the rich-media and rich internet applications areas cannot be overstated,” said Balthaser’s patent lawyer Don Pelto.

Faced with potentially having to pay out large amounts of royalties, some of the internet’s largest companies may well now choose to challenge the validity of the wide-ranging patent.

Such companies could include Flash patent-holder Adobe or Java patent-holder Sun Microsystems, for instance.

Discussion boards on the internet have already thrown up wide-scale ridicule of the patent, with contributors claiming it covers technology that is neither novel nor non-obvious, two main conditions required to get a patent.

There is speculation that Balthaser may be tempted to sell on the patent to a larger firm with greater legal muscle able to try to enforce royalty payments – something Balthaser has not ruled out. 

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