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i-Technology Blog: Death-Knell For "Rich Media? Hardly!

"It's Just a Publicity Stunt" – Nexaweb Founder and RIA Pioneer Coach Wei

When a San Francisco web development company was on February 14 assigned a US patent covering the use of rich-media applications on the Internet, it was always going to be only a matter of time before the self-same Internet exploded with concern and astonishment.

The company in question is Balthaser Online, Inc. of Lafayette, CA, and the patent in question is US 7,000,180 - a patent for "Methods, systems, and processes for the design and creation of rich-media applications via the internet."

The astonishment in question is near-universal. But first let me just back up and recount the facts.

Neil Balthaser, a San Francisco resident, filed his application for this patent on February 9, 2001 (Application No. 9/779,831) as a continuation in part of application No. 09/716460, filed on Nov. 21, 2000, which he abandoned.

The abstract, publicly available at the USPTO, summarizes the patent as follows:

"Rich-media applications are designed and created via the Internet. A host computer system, 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 via the established Internet connection for a specific user account. Rich-media applications are created, deleted, or modified in a user account via the established Internet connection.

Rich-media components are added to, modified in, or deleted from scenes of a rich-media application based on information contained in user requests.

After creation, the rich-media application is viewed or saved on the host computer system, or downloaded to the user computer system via the established Internet connection. In addition, the host process monitors the available computer and network resources and determines the particular component, scene, and application versions, if multiple versions exist, that most closely match the available resources."

The full application - as one would expect, it is extremely detailed - is here

I asked a series of Rich-Media experts what they make of this United States Patent, starting with the Founder and CTO of Laszlo Systems, David Temkin.

NEXT PAGE: Read the Comments of David Temkin, Laszlo Systems; Coach Wei, Nexaweb; and Jim Phelan, Stream57.

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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Most Recent Comments
Website Builder 02/21/08 07:38:11 PM EST

What's the situation with this?

Tom Maszerowski 03/01/06 07:31:50 AM EST

Considering the mass of prior art, they're not likely to end the "web as we know it" anytime soon.

QuoteUnquote 03/01/06 07:27:36 AM EST

[from the Balthaser Online Inc press release]

'This new addition to our patent portfolio is a pioneering patent and provides significant licensing opportunities for both Balthaser and our licensees,' stated Neil Balthaser, Chief Executive Officer and Chairman.

'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.'

Dave Williamson 03/01/06 06:51:27 AM EST

It would appear that some of the earliest flash and generator work myself and some of my colleges were involved in back in the earliest days of flash has broken one of the most ludicrous patent awards I have heard of.

Neil Balthaser has been awarded a Patent relating to the online production of RIAs using RIAs over a remote connection.

I find this incredible given the number of flash applications that were around at that time that must have existed to be listed as prior art that would have shown quite obviously that there was not a single original idea, process or product related to the Balthather FX/ProFX site.

In the UK there is the MoonFruit platform for a start that was live before the Pro FX site for a start (here's the link: http://www.moonfruit.com/), not least the fact that Macromedia's own Generator product offered exactly the engine of such automated production online.

So here for your delectation is 'Casper' an application born in 1998/1999 some time originally utilising flash 3/4 and generator and then more recently updated through flash 5 and Flash MX. (Here's the URL: http://casper.bittube.com/)

In the future I fully intend to bring the code base kicking and screaming into Flash AS2/3 and re-introduce the capabilities to 'export' or 'produce' rich media presentations from it.

For those of you who were also around producing this form of 'RIA' back in the day, I highly recommend you dig out and dust off your old FLAs and report those productions over at OSFlash.org as prior art.

Where this patent leaves future development of similar concepts in relation to Flex, server-based MTasc/swfMill AJAX or any other form and or mixture of technology(ies) you can think of remains to be seen.

Boy am I cross.

Mark Evans 03/01/06 06:20:50 AM EST

This either looks like another U.S. Patent & Trade Office fiasco and/or a company setting itself up to be acquired and put out of its misery.

In any event, it - and the patent battle between NTP and RIM - illustrates the USPTO should undergo an extensive review to assess whether the granting of patents is being done in a way that protects the rights of investors while still leaving enough flexibility to encourage innovation.

ClarificationPlease 03/01/06 06:04:46 AM EST

Is it true that the patent covers all rich media technology implementations including Flash, Flex, Java, Ajax and XAML?

pyrosx 02/28/06 08:54:12 AM EST

WTF! Hell of a job the US Patent Office is doing. Obviously they are somewhere near the lower end of the american literacy curve. I feel so embarrassed for the patent system right now.

I should patent 'A system of posting free speech online.' and collect royalties from all online publications.

pyrosx 02/28/06 08:54:10 AM EST

WTF! Hell of a job the US Patent Office is doing. Obviously they are somewhere near the lower end of the american literacy curve. I feel so embarrassed for the patent system right now.

I should patent 'A system of posting free speech online.' and collect royalties from all online publications.

queZZtion 02/28/06 08:49:35 AM EST

Is this the same Neil Balthaser that used to be a VP of strategy for Macromedia?

DL Byron 02/28/06 07:57:49 AM EST

Balthaser can yell bingo with the ruling and now will try to win the megalotto by hoping some company would rather license the patent then fight them.