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February 23, 2006 11:42 AM   Subscribe

"A patent has been granted to a relatively unknown California Web-design firm for an invention its creator says covers the design and creation of most rich-media applications used over the Internet.... The patent--issued on Valentine's Day--covers all rich-media technology implementations, including Flash, Flex, Java, Ajax, and XAML, when the rich-media application is accessed on any device over the Internet, including desktops, mobile devices, set-top boxes, and video game consoles, says inventor Neil Balthaser, CEO of Balthaser Online, which he owns with his father Ken. 'You can consider it a pioneering or umbrella patent. The broader claim is one that basically says that if you got a rich Internet application, it is covered by this patent.'" (via Jeff Zeldman)
posted by grrarrgh00 (45 comments total)

 
While their claim to have invented the basis for Flash, Java, Ajax, etc., may be somewhat suspect, Balthaser definitely invented the Flash intro.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 11:43 AM on February 23, 2006


Well, the patent only covers "rich" media, so all we have to do is start calling our media something else. Maybe just "media" or "fancy" or something else.

What a stupid patent.
posted by delmoi at 11:47 AM on February 23, 2006


I was just gonna say I remember that name from the dark days of when the internets were awash with the crappiest that flash had to offer... ugh.
posted by slater at 11:48 AM on February 23, 2006


Interestingly, when you look at what Balthaser is selling now (a flash-including-webpage generator) and at what the patent actually says it covers,

A host computer, 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 over the Internet for a specific user account. Rich-media applications are created, deleted, or modified in a user account, with rich-media components added to, modified in, or deleted from the rich-media application based on information contained in a user request. After creation, the rich-media application is viewed or saved on the host computer system, or downloaded to the user computer system over the Internet.

it looks like a lot of overhyped worry. The patent covers programmatically generating rich media applications over the web, not merely the delivery of rich media over the web.
posted by nomisxid at 11:56 AM on February 23, 2006


So they own teh intarnets?

When you're gonna sue, you might as well shoot for the stars and get it all in one big lawsuit. These fellas have a foursome of the biggest balls of all.
posted by fenriq at 12:00 PM on February 23, 2006


Macromedia's Shockwave plug-in predated Flash a couple of years, and I've seen (and even made) some rich media Internet applications as early as 1996.

So this has no leg to stand on considering 'prior art'.
posted by kika at 12:03 PM on February 23, 2006


That's it, I'm going to invent some kind of ridiculously inane and redundant combination of existing technologies and apply for a patent that would grant me retroactive royalties across all space and time. I could probably develop some kind of horribly inefficent drive train, so... uhh... lets just say I am owed hundreds of billions of dollars in automotive sales because they all have transmissions. Yeah, sounds good.

What? I wasn't even alive when the first transmission was invented? They probably hijacked the electronic current encasing the airwave intended for the emissions required to contain the glorious explosion of this idea in my mind - right out of the womb of the womb of my would be mother, probably through the photon computer that may or may not have been switched off. I've got the paperwork right here, see... the idea was mine, pay up suckers!
posted by prostyle at 12:03 PM on February 23, 2006


The patent covers programmatically generating rich media applications over the web, not merely the delivery of rich media over the web.

That still sounds pretty bad for anyone working in that area.
posted by Artw at 12:19 PM on February 23, 2006


Because he began developing the methods and processes more than a half decade ago, he believes he can prove his invention is novel and nonobvious, two requirements to get a patent, and can fend off any patent challenges from potential licensees who might contend the invention is neither new nor obscure.

Wow, a whole half-decade ago? Amazing! Stupendous! The Internet must've looked like a ghost town in whatever little world he was in during January, 2001.
posted by wakko at 12:27 PM on February 23, 2006


Sounds like he is trying to flip a patent on a widely used, broadly defined application of technology. If he thinks Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, or any other big player would actually buy his patent, he's crazier than his lawyer.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 12:32 PM on February 23, 2006


Artw, who else is selling a web-based flash generator? If you locally assemble your flash application, his patent doesn't seem to apply.
posted by nomisxid at 12:35 PM on February 23, 2006


Balthaser says he began to develop rich-media application processes while developing Websites for large corporate clients in the late 1990s using Macromedia Flash 3.

He STARTED his work using a third release rich media creator...I think it's time we got some fresh blood in the US Patent Office because it's fairly obvious they haven't a clue on how to deal with ANYTHING related to the internet. Remember when someone tried to patent frames?
posted by Like the Reef at 12:36 PM on February 23, 2006


when will all the process patents stop!! I'm gonna patent binary math and make every computer owner pay me a license!!!
posted by Megafly at 12:37 PM on February 23, 2006


Wow. I couldn't even get through the flash intro LOADING without getting bored, and I'm on a megasupersonic-speed connection. It's good to see they're putting the patent to good use.

As for the validity or enforceability of this patent...well, it should be fun to watch 'em try and fail.
posted by davejay at 12:45 PM on February 23, 2006


I'm going to patent leather shoes.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:47 PM on February 23, 2006


I'm going to patent pending.
posted by Smart Dalek at 12:53 PM on February 23, 2006


Smart Dalek writes "I'm going to patent pending."

It's supposed to nice this time of year.

As to the patent, meh. It won't stand up. The prior art involved is immense and I can't see how it would ever hold up to scrutiny.
posted by purephase at 12:57 PM on February 23, 2006


I'm going to patent patience, possibly petunias... but I would never patent portable power pumps. If they existed.
posted by indiebass at 1:00 PM on February 23, 2006


It looks like he's basically claiming a patent on any server-generated Flash. Which is a lot of stuff on the corporate end, I imagine. A lot of database-driven training stuff is done with Flash + Java/CF.
posted by mkultra at 1:01 PM on February 23, 2006


You know, the Ming libraries had their first release in 2000 (or so the docs from the 0.0.1a release seem to indicate). They allow for the dynamic creation of rich media content on a web server, and predate Balthaser's work.

If the USPTO's mandate has become to prove that it has itself become obsolete, it's doing a great job.
posted by clevershark at 1:04 PM on February 23, 2006


Perhaps I'll try to patent the very process by which you apply for a patent. Then any whiz-kid who comes along with an idea like this will need to license the right to apply for a patent from me.

Given the USPTO's apparently lax approval process, it should work.
posted by adamrice at 1:08 PM on February 23, 2006


As some have said, this patent looks much narrower on cursory review than claimed in the poorly written article. It covers a user account which is accessed to over the internet to create a rich media page. If you make one just on your computer it isn't covered. If you make one over the internet but without creating a user account it does not appear to be covered. There still remains a fair amount of breadth to the claims. However, it dates back only to 2000 and it cites precious little prior art. Was there any? By that I mean not just flash, the patent itself acknowledges that as being prior, but the ability for a remote user to build a flash application on a server.
posted by caddis at 1:15 PM on February 23, 2006


I just patented your mom.

The PO Box address and/or bank routing number for retroactive royalty payments for your life so far and ongoing payments for the rest of your life will be available shortly.
posted by loquacious at 1:17 PM on February 23, 2006


nomisxid: I know of at least one company selling a product capable of generating flash content over the web. I worked with the two cofounders at another company a few years back. There I was responsible for much of the technical work on this site, where administrators enter content once into a CMS, and HTML and Flash versions are generated simultaneously.

Aside: If the guys at JART ever get around to releasing their freeware XML Editor, I'd recommend it. It's an excellent, lightweight, browser-based editor.

Disclaimer: I have no current relationship with the JART guys other than that of an ex-coworker.
posted by syzygy at 1:30 PM on February 23, 2006


i am patenting 'i am patenting' posts

slashdot owes me $250M already
posted by wakko at 1:32 PM on February 23, 2006


Am I too late to patent the word "patent"? I could make a mint.
posted by clevershark at 1:34 PM on February 23, 2006


patent this
posted by telstar at 1:40 PM on February 23, 2006


the ability for a remote user to build a flash application on a server

A few people used Macromedia Generator (1998) to allow users to generate Flash content after logging in to a web application.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:50 PM on February 23, 2006


I just patented posting in this thread. All of you owe me money .
posted by grex at 2:01 PM on February 23, 2006


The Patent Office issues a lot of patents without doing a full job assuming that the Board of Patent Appeals will sort it out. The examiners have to do two patents a day to keep up with their quotas. That's why NTP can win a jury trial on its patent, yet have the Board of Patent Appeals rule the patents invalid soon after. Expect the same here.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:25 PM on February 23, 2006


it looks like a lot of overhyped worry. The patent covers programmatically generating rich media applications over the web, not merely the delivery of rich media over the web.
posted by nomisxid at 2:56 PM EST on February 23 [!]


That's huge. Ever use Google Maps?
posted by juiceCake at 2:43 PM on February 23, 2006


The PTO is trying to hire new examiners like mad. In addition to what Ironmouth has said, the pay also isn't enough to attract good talent away from making really good money at law firms.
posted by gyc at 3:09 PM on February 23, 2006


"The Internet must've looked like a ghost town in whatever little world he was in during January, 2001."

9/11 changed everything.
posted by klangklangston at 3:12 PM on February 23, 2006


juiceCake, Google Maps is an application, not an application generator. The closest google has is the not-yet-ready-for-everyone google pages.
posted by nomisxid at 3:14 PM on February 23, 2006


Flash movies are basically just files, so I don't see why this wouldn't cover anything that generates files based on requests sent over the internet,which is pretty huge.
posted by Artw at 3:57 PM on February 23, 2006


Google Maps is an application, not an application generator.

Google Maps generates scripts and images on the fly based on user input.
posted by Artw at 3:59 PM on February 23, 2006


I remember the first Balthaser site - when they were an agency, way before that ProFX crap. "What your mind can imagine... we can create..." or something. The intro was over 1 Meg and took about 5 minutes to download at 28k. And still I waited. Nowadays, I wouldn't wait 5 seconds...

There is almost certainly prior art on this; I can recall at least two flash-based 'build your own website' services which likely predate Balthaser. One was something to do with moons ("purplemoon"? "moonunit"?) and one had "pod" in the title. Both were pre-2000.
posted by blag at 5:20 PM on February 23, 2006


It's hard to believe that one could patent something that uses "rich media," a whole range of different technologies not invented by the patent holder.

It's hard to see what they actually did invent. Reading the summary, one would think it applies specifically to projects like google pages. I guess.
posted by ph00dz at 5:59 PM on February 23, 2006


So they own teh intarnets?

No no no, they pwnx0rz teh intarnets.
posted by tweak at 6:02 PM on February 23, 2006


Patent application: a method by which an individual can derail an conversation and provoke reaction by making inflammatory comments in a communications forum on the internet. I call this process Trolling
posted by Megafly at 6:14 PM on February 23, 2006


Artw, google maps is the same application for everyone. It's not a map application for me, and a tv-listings application for you. Look at the patent, it's very clear about what it covers, none of which is what it's being hyped over.
posted by nomisxid at 6:41 PM on February 23, 2006


Google Maps is an application, not an application generator.

Yes it is an application. But I thought it was dynamic and responded to user input via a web browser over the Internet.

I'm not sure what you by an application generator. Would that be programs that actually generate applications over the Internet? Will a Photoshop like application be generated by a program via the web one day or am I completely lost in terminology here?

Including AJAX in the articles is errorenous?
posted by juiceCake at 6:45 PM on February 23, 2006


Moonfruit. Launched January 2000.
posted by blag at 8:18 PM on February 23, 2006


I started a company back in 1996 that developed a product that supported vector animation, rich-media, and interactivity -- the sort of thing Flash does -- except that our file-format was an extension of HTML so you could generate it live on the server and download it from the web. You interacted with it inside a client-side player which ran on the Mac and Windows. Eventually Microsoft licensed parts of it and I moved on to other things.

The product was conceived even earlier than 1996 and if I'm reading the patent spec right, it could very well predate this guy's invention and probably qualify as prior art. Not sure what to do with this information... Any ideas?
posted by fubar at 12:18 AM on February 24, 2006


Balthaser, prepare to be ignored.
posted by NewBornHippy at 5:26 AM on February 24, 2006


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