Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

Patents Gone Wild: Ajax and Rich Media

Category: Editorial

In another show of how the patent process needs to be updated, we heard that a Company claims patent win in online rich media.

Internet design company Balthaser announced Tuesday that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted it a patent for the design and creation of rich-media services over the Internet.

According to information on the Patent Office’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.”

Balthaser apparently intends to license the patent to companies that deliver rich-media services over the Web using technologies such as Adobe Systems’ Flash, AJAX and Java.

The company filed the patent in 2001???? Wow.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 5:19 pm

3.5 rating from 52 votes


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What I like the best is that Balthaser is using Macromedia / Adobe Flash to power their website, and not anything they have made themselves. And they expect to license their patent to Adobe? What is there to license? They’re the ones using Adobe’s products to produce their “application,” not the other way around. What a bunch of bottom-feeders.

Comment by Nathan Smith — February 22, 2006

That may be right, but that’s the way the (broken) patent system works. Sadly.

Comment by Bryan Buchs — February 22, 2006

Considering FutureSplash (precursor to Flash) was used on Disney’s website in 1996 to make UI components and Director 7 added Shockwave (precursor to Flash Player) support back in 1998 I think this company, founded in 1999, will have its patent revoke the minute Adobe takes them to court.

Again, another wonderful example of how technology moves too quick for the morons at the patent office.

Comment by Sean Fousheé — February 22, 2006

What a hilarious observation that in light of their patent claims they are using Flash exclusively on the site! That’s great.

Reasonably protecting our ideas and innovations is something probably sensitive to all of us as developers, and something we all take seriously, given what time, thought, and energies we put into our work… and innovation is no doubt crucial to free enterprises. But this is way too far. It’s like claiming to invent the question mark, to take a line from Dr. Evil’s psychology session. If this is deemed unenforceable due to prior art, which it surely will, Baltaser is far from the modern day Philo T. Farnsworth and his electronic television!

Comment by Mark Holton — February 22, 2006

Doesn’t the existence of rich Internet apps at the time this was filed clearly count as prior art? i.e. the thing they tried to patent was already in production when they submitted the patent?

Unless there are details to the patent (i.e. a specific type of rich media app) that the post didn’t mention?

Comment by Dave — February 22, 2006

Doesn’t the existence of rich Internet apps at the time this was filed clearly count as prior art? i.e. the thing they tried to patent was already in production when they submitted the patent?

Unless there are details to the patent (a specific type of rich media app for example) that the post didn’t mention?

Comment by Dave — February 22, 2006

I think the patent applies more to giving users the ability to create rich-media services ONLINE. Basically, a web app to create flash presentations, essentially a Flash version of a Flash authoring tool. It’s a product Balthaser have been developing for years, if I remember correctly.

Comment by Michael McCorry — February 22, 2006

Insanity I tell you! Insanity!

Comment by Blues — February 23, 2006

Isn’t that similar to patent links that was tried a couple of years ago?

Comment by Borga — February 23, 2006

@ Michael – If thats true, and its far more reasonable than what we’ve all been thinking, then I’m left wondering if the platform really makes this patent unique and valid. The web can be viewed as nothing more than a simple platform, not unlike OS X or Windows in its ability to support individual applications using a native language (JavaScript/XML/XHTML). Couldn’t this patent then be compared to a software company trying to say their software, which is the same as Brand X, deserves a patent because it runs on Linux instead of Windows?

Flash and Director were two of the pioneering applications for the development of rich internet applications available before 1999; and just because they used the Mac/Windows platforms instead of the web and Lingo/Actionscript instead of Javascript et al to author their products doesn’t give Balthisar a right to a patent.

Comment by Sean Fousheé — February 23, 2006

Michael is correct. While the patent system is in fact broken to a degree. This is just another case of people misreading and making something out of nothing. Besides, claiming a patent is one thing, having it hold up is another. I can claim I invented air, but it takes more than some claims.

Again, this patent, in actually reading it, covers the creation of rich media applications online via such things as listed above. Not the actual rich media itself.


Comment by benb — February 23, 2006

The article on CNET stated:
“Adobe, one of the market leaders in the rich-media space, is expected to respond to Balthaser’s patent award on Thursday.”

Did anyone see a response today from Adobe? If so, can you post in a comment? I couldn’t find one.


Comment by Mark Holton — February 23, 2006

It could be that they thought they were granting a patent for a household cleaner. You know, what with them knowing absolutely nothing about the tech sector (read:Blackberry) and being presented with a document with the word “Ajax” in it.

*sigh* the lunacy of it all.

Comment by Ara Pehlivanian — February 24, 2006

Flash Platform Week in Review (Feb 18 – Feb 24)

After a bit of a hiatus, the week in review is back, but since I took a couple of weeks off this is just going to be a jumble of Flash items I’ve seen recently.

Trackback by Digital Backcountry - Ryan Stewart's Blog — February 24, 2006

The CNET article was very different than my interpertation of the patent. So, I thought I’d clarify.

If you read through the patent, it appears that they actually patented the process of creating / updating ‘information’ over the Internet. As such, Flash would not be in violation of the patent (because we don’t create it over the Internet; only deploy it there). However, certain Flash Applications might be in violation (depending what they do).

As such, if they were going to be enforcing this legally, companies like Amazon, Google, eBay would probably be higher targets than Macromedia.

IANAL (and I didn’t read through the full 75 page patent either)

Comment by Jeff Houser — February 24, 2006

I still can’t get over the audacity these people had in thinking they could patent such a thing. I literally can’t wrap my head around it! And then to think they include future technologies as well?

Comment by Big Dogs — February 24, 2006

actually what i think they pattented is the webapp for creating flash sites, wich to me is not a new idea ( web applications ) since many ppl predict all apps will be hosted, and computers will just become dummy boxes with a monitor, a kb, a mouse and a high speed internet connection so the box can connect and the entire system: OS, and the rest of the software will be available online

Comment by Rafael Simon Garcia — February 26, 2006

still, it IS the first implementation for this kind of application so the patent is good

Comment by Rafael Simon Garcia — February 26, 2006

… i wonder why didn’t m$ think of this … it’s more like m$’s style :))

Comment by Doru — February 27, 2006

Actually, the patent patents the online (via the Internet) creation and/or modification of websites via user accounts. It patents (at least to my understanding after reading the patent text) any CMS that is based on FLASH. It says nothing of AJAX directly. It talks extensively of scenes (i.e. FLASH) and the methods, processes and technology of how most CMS applications (such as Mambo, EZPublish, etc.) create RIA. I think they’ve patented a particular methodology like a chemist would patent a chemical formula or a computer scientist would patent an algorithm.

Comment by Tom Stewart — February 27, 2006

[…] How far will this go? I have read many of the online discussions regarding the new patent granted to Balthaser. […]

Pingback by Beyond Caffeine » Patents For the Web? — March 5, 2006

X Windows predates and (fortunately) invalidates most of the asinine patent ideas that are likely to be brought forward by the those that want to assert control over rich media and the net.

X Windows was ahead of its time, and is a largely misunderstood technology that is still ahead of most of today’s modest imitators like Flash. The very nature of X Windows causes every aspect of the user’s experience to “modify” on the fly the rich content that is delivered remotely. Just by clicking on a button, you are “authoring” a remote experience.

X Windows is better then Flash, is better then XAML, is better then SVG and will likely remain better then re-invention xyz of the future. Its major flaw is that our network (read internet) systems aren’t yet ready for it because it thrives on lots of low lag bandwidth.

Flash is X Windows bundled in monolithic lumps, with an interpreter thrown in to the mix. Many, if not most of the patents of this ilk are ludicrous attempts at a money grab.

Oh, did I mention OpenGL and GLX … more prior art dumb patent killers.

Comment by Mario Pintaric — September 27, 2006

They may have a patent but I don’t believe that if they tried to take someone to court they would actually win. I am not sure what their purpose in doing this is except as an experiment to see how they can manipulate the system. The online services available on the internet as it is are borrowed from each other so much that maybe they are doing what they can to protect themselves even if it is a bit odd.

Comment by BPL — January 8, 2008

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