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Online Rich Media Patented 237

An anonymous reader writes "Balthasar has been awarded a patent on "Methods, systems, and processes for the design and creation of rich-media applications via the internet" ( USPO 7,000,180). In an article at news.com the company claims that "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". The patent was filed on 9 February 2001, five years after the original Flash application, FutureWave Splash, was introduced in May 1996."
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Online Rich Media Patented

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  • by Ginger Unicorn ( 952287 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:01AM (#14783700)
    Can someone trump them with prior art in "the ability to delvier anything whatsoiever over the internet"?
    • Simple... (Score:5, Informative)

      by CarpetShark ( 865376 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @10:33AM (#14784243)
      "Delivering whatsoever over the internet" is called FTP.

      However, that's not really what's being dealt with here. HTML was designed with rich content in mind. It can transfer any kind of file specifiable by mimetype, *including* Flash etc., and was intended to do that interactively, thereby making it a superset of Flash in concept. Java Applets were available in HTML 3.0, which was a LONG time ago now (1995/6, I think?).

      Moreover, HTML is superior in design, despite some misuse. It's independent of resolution, browser, etc., and was designed to be future-proof, based on previous future proof document formats. This essentially makes it less implementation-bound and more forward-thinking than the proprietary Flash format.

      Also, the very first interactive web apps were done with CGI, developed back in 1993. This uses the very successful and now re-popularised "REST" model, which isn't going anywhere as a modern solution to interactivity.
    • by PIBM ( 588930 )
      Did you actually take the time to read the patent ? In fact, the editor didn't read it either. This patent is for a web based tool that would auto-magically create rich-media application as the low-intellect user would like to have, and it has to look good too... I don't think anyone right in his mind would like to try to make something like this ;)
  • by suv4x4 ( 956391 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:04AM (#14783718)
    When he says it covers all "rich media" he really means it covers rich media GENERATOR/EDITOR applications in said rich media, not all apps or the technology itself.

    The patent describes a system for creating what basically is a Flash IDE with clipart online. That said the patent affects all sorts of CMS (content management systems), editors, template-based sites and so on and so on that fall under it.

    The prior art for that patent is devastating. A lot of the claims are ridiculous and include the "revolutionarty" inventions of.. rotating, scaling and moving objects.

    I'm still mightily pissed by this silly patent, but I'll just ignore it, should they try to enforce it, they'll have to face the prior art.
    • Oh Crap! Does this mean that I can't use FrontPage 97 anymore for creating our company web site!? :-)
    • by Pofy ( 471469 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:14AM (#14783768)
      Not only prior art is a prooblem, a patent should also be on obvious for people in teh field. I am always amazed how it seems that by adding "on the internet" or "with a computer" tends to turn almost everything into something completely non obvious. Oh well.
    • by ajdavis ( 11891 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:19AM (#14783782) Homepage
      At first I thought "rich media" meant Jack Valenti, but now I see that, as parent says, this patent covers editing something like a Flash script over the Internet, with some network application server doing the actual work. However, if you had an X-Windows application that edited such a Flash script, & you exported its display to another terminal, then you're clearly violating this patent, even though you could have done this in the 90s, maybe the 80s.

      Even if we ignored that, this patent is obvious: it's a principle of CS that anything you can do on your own box, you can do remotely, thus if the local application isn't patented, then the web application can't be patented either, because it's obvious. I think if the USPTO realized this (although they're systemically disinclined to understand anything, since their revenue comes from *approving* patents), many assinine web patents would go away.

      A few weeks ago we saw an article advocating "patents lite", in which the USPTO checks that the patent covers something patentable, but does *not* check for prior art, usefulness, or non-obviousness. The patent is much shorter, like 3 years. The first time it's challenged, the burden is now on the patent-holder to show that it's useful, novel, & non-obvious.

      It turns out that de facto, we have patents lite. Clearly, the Patent Office checked nothing before it granted this patent, so we're just waiting for the first lawsuit. We have patents lite, & the system still doesn't work. It's time to end this.
      • Regarding the fact that this patent has been requested in 2001 and awarded only now and the fact that, if issued, a patent is valid from the date of application, it seems we already have a 4+ year "patent lite". The patent has effectively had 4+ years of chilling effect on competitors.
      • their [the USPTO] revenue comes from *approving* patents

        Ah ha. If that is true, then I think I see how this mess happened.

        Is this the same method of funding for other major patent approval organisations around the world?
      • As a practicing patent lawyer, I assure you that the U.S. Patent Office does not get most of its revenue from allowing patents. It gets most of its revenue from the late fees it charges if you file documents after their due dates.

        Seriously, though, you can look up the PTO's fee schedule [uspto.gov] yourself. The schedule shows that the issue and maintenance fees can total about $8,400 over the life of a patent. On the other hand, at current rates, the application that led to the patent we're now discussing would c

    • There seem to be some pretty stupid statements in there too, such as this from the "Background of the Invention" section:

      Programs such as Microsoft's Visual Basic® provide website designers with the ability to create websites more quickly by allowing designers to create websites graphically instead of by coding primarily in HTML.

      What on earth is that supposed to mean? If they'd said "Microsoft Visual Basic.NET" it might have made some sense, as you can use that to create ASP.NET stuff, but t

      • As far as I can tell, that entire point makes no sense. You can utilise VB in the sense of VB.NET to create applications, but to integrate those with a website still requires at least some HTML. The HTML has been able to be generated using a WYSIWYG (ie graphical) interface for years now.
    • As we've seen in Blackberry and numerous other cases, the legal DEFAULT goes with the patent holder. Its a lot easier to enforce a patent than break it. All the holder has to do is to show someone is infringinig on the patent. The burden of proof and legal costs now lay on the infriger to show it is a bad patent.
    • When he says it covers all "rich media" he really means it covers rich media GENERATOR/EDITOR applications in said rich media, not all apps or the technology itself.

      The patent describes a system for creating what basically is a Flash IDE with clipart online.

      Sadly, I must disagree with your conclusion.

      From the patent: ...and wherein said modifying an existing rich-media application comprises one or more of the following: accessing account information;...

      IE: the patent claim is that accessing account informat
    • Did anyone else notice that this guy is also claiming the patent covers pretty much any device that can access the internet?
      "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 added.
      Someone has a screw loose.
    • rotating, scaling and moving objects

      r0t4ting or sc4ling an object? omgwtf!! that r0x!!!

      I'm guessing that's exactly what they thought when putting the patent application together. It certainly would be consistent with the mentality required attempt something like this.
  • Applet (Score:3, Informative)

    by LarsWestergren ( 9033 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:07AM (#14783730) Homepage Journal
    The patent was filed on 9 February 2001, five years after the original Flash application, FutureWave Splash, was introduced in May 1996."

    And seven years after the applet of Duke waving in 1995, soon followed by the 3D rotatable molecule applet demod by Gosling, both pretty rich for their time.
    • You didn't read/understand the patent or the story linked to. (WOW how unusual)

      This is about using a client/server model to do the editing/preparation of the media, not displaying it in a web browser.

      • You didn't read/understand the patent or the story linked to. (WOW how unusual)

        You are right, I didn't read the article, but it wasn't the patent I was commenting on but that line from the Slashdot story.

        Also, the duke wave applet was 1994 actually, I did a typo. I was waiting for someone to reply to me so I wouldn't have to reply to myself. :-)
  • Maybe I should have the concept of 'awarding stupid patents' patented - it would make me filthy rich by collecting *lots* of royalties from the USPO.
    • I'm going to patent the idea of NOT adding a comment saying how cool it would be to patent the idea of awarding patents everytime there is a story on any Internet forum about patents. And the great thing is, I'm betting the PTO won't find any prior art, if they bother to look.

      Seriously though, has anyone done serious research into how one could patent award patents: which patent office is laziest, what time of the year are they busy, ways to describe the concept of patenting without it being obvious what y
    • Maybe I can get a patent on creating the comment of "awarding the stupid patent patent" on any internet site, blog, news, created by any device capable of communicating with the internet, computer, mobile phone, games console, watch, long stick.

      That would be really funny...
  • by Random BedHead Ed ( 602081 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:10AM (#14783748) Homepage Journal
    An article in Information Week [informationweek.com] mentions that Balthaser was formerly a VP of strategy at Macromedia, so I'm sure they'll be interested in how his employment contract with them affects this patent's ownership and validity. It also mentions that he used Macromedia Flash 3 in the late 1990s, at least two years prior to receiving the patent. If anyone buys this patent from him they'll be up against big players, and it'll be war. And the patent will almost certainly be invalidated. Then again, if anyone is dumb enough to buy it, maybe I should approach them about buying my patent number 4,815,162,342 entitled "A Method for Utilizing and Commercializing a Simultaneously Suspended and Supported Access Route from Manhattan to Brooklyn."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:10AM (#14783751)
    Balthasar sues Everyone

    Everyone fails to settle

    Jury rules Everyone is infringing

    Judge threatens to shut down Everyone

    USPTO decides patent is invalid

    Judge shuts Everyone down
  • How ironic (Score:5, Funny)

    by stubear ( 130454 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:13AM (#14783765)
    Balthaser's own website is built using Flash, one of the technologies for which it claims a patent.
  • by smackdotcom ( 136408 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:15AM (#14783769)
    Man, I can't wait until this new technology is implemented. Just think; we'll have something to look forward to on the Internet besides all those cumbersome, hand-coded HTML pages. Hurrah!
  • Just how much money are we depriving these poor people's kids by not paying them money when we visit digg or play flash games?

    On a separate note, I wonder how they are going to value this patent. I haven't really found any indications on that - am I going to have to start paying royalties on the sites that I already provide free of charge and ads?


    http://www.networkstrike.com/ [networkstrike.com]
  • by Flying pig ( 925874 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:22AM (#14783799)
    Because 70% of all sharks now working for software parent companies.

    On second thought, insult to sharks. Sorry, guys.

  • Does this cover animated ASCII art? If so, I've got some work from the 1980s (maybe even 70s?) that would probably count as prior art. (And yes it was available ONLINE.) What about the graphical interface for online services such as Prodigy and... what was that Apple service again? eWorld? How about when we could play HyperCard stacks in Quicktime (in web pages!) during the mid-1990s?

  • Patent abstract... (Score:3, Informative)

    by PCeye ( 661091 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:32AM (#14783842)
    It sounds like this also overlaps terminal services to a degree... /////

    United States Patent 7,000,180
    Balthaser February 14, 2006
    Methods, systems, and processes for the design and creation of rich-media applications via the internet


    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.
    • Thanks for posting something not from the hip ... so it looks like they patented CREATING rich media VIA an internet connection, not plain old rich media internet applications. Once again, sensationalist headlines win out on Slashdot. It's still a shitty patent, and hardly novel, but it's not the wide reaching claim the headline suggests.
    • Claim 1 is actually what is patented:

      1. A method for users to create and maintain a rich-media application on said host website via the Internet comprising:

      creating a user account; accessing a user account; and viewing available options for creating rich-media applications,

      wherein said accessing a user account comprises one or more of the following: accessing account information; creating a new rich-media application; modifying an existing rich-media application; and accessing statistics from an existing ri
  • Patent System Broken,
      Will never actually hold up,
      Yadda Yadda Yadda
      At least one of these articles every week,
      Nothing to see here
      Move along
  • I told you that the guy that denied the patent on the FTL drive would be fired. Can't let things like common sense and prior art get in the way of some under the table pay off.
  • Just for the record and so my karma doesn't suffer, this has nothing to do with me. :-)
  • This is Amazon's one-click crap again. Once someone invented cookies, for identifying a returning user, all "inventions" that used cookies to, er, you know, identify a returning user should have become non-patentable.

    Likewise, once anyone has invented using programs over a network, then simply patenting the use of an individual program should no longer be valid as it has become an obvious extension of the prior art.

    The US patent system should just be scrapped now; it is actually worse than nothing.


  • by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:51AM (#14783958) Homepage
    Since computers and the internet are so standardized, any invention conforming to any of the following should be obvious to anybody:

    The invention already exists in a non-networked version.

    The invention already exists in a non-scriptable version.

    The invention already exists as a hardware implementation.

    The invention already exists using older components.

    The invention already exists and is being used as such using it's individual components.
  • by mavenguy ( 126559 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @09:56AM (#14783983)
    I'm not commenting on the merits of the prior art involved in this case since I'm not familiar with the history of CMS systems, but a check of the file wrapper history [uspto.gov] shows the following information:

    1. This is a continuation in part of an earlier, abandoned application [uspto.gov]
    2. Both the earlier and the current application had a restriction requirement, the current application being a five way restriction which was maintained
    3. Both of the above applications were passed around like a hot potato; nobody wanted the case; no wonder; the current application was filed with 166 claims
    4. Due to the length of time the current application was pending, its patent term was extended 379 days (i. e. it expires 20 years + 379 days from the filing date

    The prosecution outline was utterly normal: Restriction, election by applicant, first action rejection, response with amendment, final rejection, response with amendment after final rejection, allowance. The first rejection had a "double patenting rejection", which was a technicality, since the parent application was still pending; it was allowed to abandon, mooting this ground of rejection. In addition, some, but not all, of the claims were rejected as anticipated (35 USC 102(e)) over a patent with an earlier filing date. There were no other rejections, in particular, no obviousness (35 USC 103) rejections.

    A consequence of item 2 above is that the applicant is entitled to file up to four divisional applications, each one, if its claims are limited to the invention outlined in the restriction requirement, are immune to double patenting rejections based on the current application claims (they will still be rejectable, however, based on prior art).

    Now, I have no idea what circumstances surrounded the handling of this application, but I can speculate that there was a fight by the examiners not to get stuck with this application ("It's a dog!") and, when the examiner of record got stuck with it he was, additionally pressured to get an action out ASAP, reflecting PTO management's long held policy of keeping production high and time to action short. This is one motivation for making the first action a restriction requirement; it gets the case off the books for a month or two, but of course when the election comes back it's back in play and has to be handled.
  • The cnet article is misleading, it implies that this guy is claiming a patent on these technologies (ajax, flash, etc...), however he has a patent on the online generation of rich media. There is a huge difference. If you go to his site: http://balthaser.com/ [balthaser.com] you will see that he sells a way to create flash animations through a web browser. I suppose it's a neat idea for some novice developers who want to make a flash animation and don't have a clue where to start. Patent worthy however? No way. It's much t
  • Why is the Patent pending icon up there? Surely it should be the Monty Python foot. No?
  • As I didnt see them posted elsewhere, the claims of a patent, and not its title or description, determine its scope (ability to exclude). Claim 1 (the broadest) of this ridiculous patent is as follows:

    1. A method for users to create and maintain a rich-media application on said host website via the Internet comprising:
    creating a user account; accessing a user account; and viewing available options for creating rich-media applications,
    wherein said accessing a user account comprises one or more of th

    • You must be new here. It's not necessary to know anything about a patent in order to argue against it on Slashdot. We prefer to just see the word "patent" in an article summary, and then argue that it's impossible for the patent to be valid, because there's obviously prior art and besides the entire patent system is illogical, unconstitutional, and immoral.

      How would actually reading the claims in the patent help at all?

  • Jail Time (Score:3, Interesting)

    I've said it once and I'll say it again; the only thing that will deterr this kind of rubbish from sabotaging the computer industry is criminal convictions and jail time.

    I would start my persuing the patent examiners. They are either criminally negligent in allowing this kind of idiocy to get through and/or they have been taking bribes. Either way I don't think jail time is out of the question.

    You could work it up to the patent office management eventually, possibly even the company who filed in extremeous, but at the end of the day, the people who rubber stamped the patent have to be held accountable, otherwise this will just get worse.

    A pushy manager and quotas are no excuse. The accountants who fudged the books for Enron at the behest of the boss are guilty too. If you have a problem with it, leave the job. That might sound harsh, but just think of all the jobs and potential jobs that have been flushed down the toilet by ridiculous patents like this one.

    Someone has to be made accountable for this!
  • by circusboy ( 580130 ) on Thursday February 23, 2006 @11:17AM (#14784657)
    When balthasar came out it was a pretty big thing for a short bit, you could generate 'rich-media' (read flash movie) online without having to buy a flash authoring license. it was a bit limited as a service, and I don't remember whether or not the end result had to be hosted on their server for an additional fee...

    the patent in this case is specifically for the creation of rich media work over an internet connection.

    whether or not anyone challenges this will have a lot to do with whether or not balthasar's income make it look attractive. anyone know how balthasar is doing at the moment?
  • I've met snowballs with better chances in hell. Going up against Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc etc? I wanna know what these guys were smoking and where I can get some.
  • If only Al Gore had applied for a patent after inventing the Internet [salon.com].

    Oh wait, he didn't. It's just that when I see news articles like this, I wish he had!
  • I could not find in the patent where "rich media component" is defined. Am I blind?
  • Hates software patents with the fiery rage of a million exploding suns...

    But hates Flash even more.

    Who to root for in this fight? Oh, the humanity...
  • Please tell me that the guy who filed for this wasn't named Al Gore.
  • The ignoble day has come that over 7,000,000 patents were issued.
    (there aren't anywhere near that many novel, non-obvious, useful inventions)

    Granted on Valentine's Day 2/14/2006, fitting for a country in love with monopolies of ideas (the current intellectual property regime).

Due to lack of disk space, this fortune database has been discontinued.