Balthaser Could Be The Next NTP

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The US Patent Office delivered something even sweeter than chocolate to web development company owner Neil Balthaser on Valentine’s Day: a rich-media patent that could be worth millions of dollars.

If software patent foes were angry about those patents before, they are going to be apoplectic over the one awarded to Balthaser Online. InformationWeek described the patent as one that “covers all rich-media technology implementations, including those that employ tools such as Flash, Flex, Java, Ajax, and XAML, when the rich-media application is accessed by any device over the Internet.”

The patent does not cover the tools made to create those applications, just the applications themselves. Essentially, the patent, which Balthaser said would be vigorously defended, could bring the whole Web 2.0 resurgence to a screeching halt.

They do not seem inclined to do so at the moment. “At the end of the day, no one wants to kill Web 2.0, no one wants to kill rich Internet applications; that doesn’t make sense for anyone,” Balthaser said in the report.

Lawsuits over the patent are a foregone conclusion. Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft all make use of applications online that will be affected by the patent. At least one of those firms looks likely to challenge the novel and non-obvious conditions of the 83 claims Balthaser made in its 2001 patent filing.

While the big companies like Microsoft and Google can handle the expense of litigation with a patent holder, most smaller firms will not be able to match those costs. If Balthaser’s licensing terms are too onerous, certain startups face the risk of not being able to start.

Also, the question arises as to venture capital firms, who may not be interested in seeing their investment rounds go toward patent licensing instead of product development. It will be interesting to see how much the vaunted Sand Hill Road VC firms are willing to spend on new companies now jeopardized by the patent.

As the report noted, even though Balthaser said it isn’t interested in shutting anything down, not many people believed NTP would toss aside a settlement with RIM worth hundreds of millions of dollars and try to get Blackberry service shut down in the US either.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Balthaser Could Be The Next NTP
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