Monday, March 06, 2006

Patents for the Web?

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

What caused the original panic (myself included) were quotes like the following:

From News.com
"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. "Balthaser will be able to provide licenses for almost any rich-media Internet application across a broad range of devices and networks."


and this headline from Information Week
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, according to the patent holders.


From what I can determine from reading the actual patent text (which is beyond ridiculously long) - what they are patenting is ability to create a online interactive web creation application. Does this encompass some existing technology? Likely. Future technology? For certain.

What concerns me is that this definitely allows, and even forces, a monopoly on online interactive web site creation apps. If the patent holds up in court, it will make it extremely difficult for anyone who would attempt to create an online application for creating websites (even if they were to open source it or otherwise provide it for free) because those people would have to license the technology rights to even create an online web site creation app. With the whole Web 2.0 innovation movement, it is so likely that someone would have / could create a better product (I mean truly, the accessibility part of me just cringed at the fact that their web app is flash based and creates flash websites). So much of the new internet, and current technology as a whole, is different. The Open Source movement is gaining in strenght, and the amount of open projects that have been successful is beyond impressive. It feels like taking a step backwards to allow patents on broad-based open concepts like this.

Overall, I find the whole matter quite disturbing.

~Nicole

Cross-posted to take your comments on Beyond Caffeine.