On Valentine's Day, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a patent to a small California Web design firm that could have broad-reaching implications for rich media providers. Balthasar Online
Inc., the patent holder, says it could license nearly any rich media application on nearly any device or network. The patent issued covers all rich media technologies--including Flash, Flex, Java,
Ajax, and XAML--accessed from Internet-enabled devices from cell phones to computers to video game consoles. Says one analyst: "Anybody who does anything with rich applications will have to pay
royalties to the company." Not only that, but the patent affects Web publishers as well as software vendors--potentially tens of thousands of businesses. Neil Balthasar, the company's CEO and a former
vice president of strategy for Flash developer Macromedia, says he will likely sell the patent to companies investing a lot of money in rich media. He says he's currently in discussion with several
"top tier players," from Web portals to online retailers. The patent, No. 7,000,180, contains 83 claims that encompass a wide array of rich media application methods, systems and processes.
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