US firm claims patent win in online rich media

A patent for the design and creation of rich media services over the Internet, potentially covering Flash, Flex, Java, Ajax and XAML has been granted to America's Balthaser

Balthaser, a US company, has been awarded a patent which it claims covers the design and creation of rich media applications on the Internet.

Balthaser announced on Tuesday that it has been granted US patent 7,000,180 by the United States Patent & Trademark Office.

According to information on the USPTO's Web site, this patent covers "Methods, systems, and processes for the design and creation of rich-media applications via the Internet".

According to a summary of the patent, "The present invention relates to the method of providing users with the ability to create rich-media applications via the Internet."

"In a specific embodiment, users may access a host Web site supplying the ability to create rich-media applications, examine the available product set, and construct a rich-media application on the host Web site. In a specific embodiment, the host Web site enables the user to modify an existing rich-media application on the host Web site," the summary continues.

It appears that Balthaser intends to licence this patent to companies who deliver rich media services over the Web using techologies such as Flash, AJAX and Java.

"This new addition to our patent portfolio is a pioneering patent and provides significant licensing opportunities for both Balthaser and our licensees," said Neil Balthaser, chief executive officer of Balthaser, in a statement.

"The patent covers all rich media technology implementations including Flash, Flex, Java, AJAX and XAML and all device footprints which access rich-media Internet applications including desktops, mobile devices, set-top boxes and video game consoles. Balthaser will be able to provide licenses for almost any Rich-Media Internet Application across a broad range of devices and networks," Balthaser added.

Adobe, one of the market leaders in the rich media space, is expected to respond to Balthaser's patent award on Thursday.

It's possible that Balthaser may struggle to enforce its patent, because of prior art — the process where a patent is invalid if it can be proven that the innovation in question already existed before the patent was filed.

Balthaser filed its patent application on 9 February, 2001. Back in 1999, a company called Javu Technologies launched a product called VideoFarm that allowed PC users to create and manage multimedia content over the Internet.

Bola Rotibi, senior analyst at Ovum, suggested that the award of patent 7,000,180 to Balthaser should focus attention on the issue of software patents.

"While Europe continues to prevaricate on bringing software patents laws inline with the US, Balthaser's patent awards, and its consequences for leading players, demonstrates both the good and bad of software patents and gives us a good reason for careful deliberation before we follow the US's lead," said Rotibi.

"Players such as Microsoft, Adobe, Google, Yahoo to name but a few, are making significant investments in rich Internet and interactive technology. Many are placing bets that this technology in conjunction with hand held device proliferation and embedded technology is the gateway to a market that sees a convergence between consumer, workplace and appliance interactions. This is a defining market — not unlike the effect the PC had for Microsoft — and the bedrock of future software applications," Rotibi added.