ZDNet were the first to report that Gotuit Media, a company nobody has heard of, has filed suit against Microsoft for alleged patent infringements in Silverlight. If you go to the Gotuit website to see what they do, you may expect that they have built a browser-based virtual machine, with markup for defining interfaces and that their platform is starting to gain traction, but instead they are a video platform. They say on their website: “Gotuit is Video Metadata. Our patented technology enables superior video discovery and content monetization”.
In real terms what they do is to take a customers video content, and then ‘enable’ it on their platform from where it can be indexed, searched and advertising can be targetted. The crux of the suit against Microsoft is that Silverlight can do all this as well. A look at the list of intellectual property that Gotuit claims shows a number of patents related to video, dating back from 1999. The patents describe video technology on the web, in what is now a generic product, but some areas describe advertising systems and recording and playback online.
Gotuit was previously an online video portal, but that seems to have changed to the company being a provider of technologies related to video delivery. Silverlight is a generic development platform, it doesn’t implement the ad targeting or anything specific itself – it is up to developers to build all that out. Silverlight does however provide technologies that allow the developer to easily track visitors, to overlay images, alpha-channels, cross-domain content (see the Mix 08 keynote, and this Mix 08 session on advertising with Silverlight.) and this can be combined into a very very effective advertising system. Gotuit must be looking at the NBC Olympics website, which is built in Silverlight, in envy as they built it in a matter of months and at the moment it is probably the richest video experience on the web.
They are within their rights to attempt to attempt to sue Microsoft, but it isn’t fair that these companies become the gatekeepers of a technology which is nothing more than television online (with the benefits of the web such as search, ad targetting etc.). There are flaws in the patent system in the USA, and it is no longer serving its original purpose. Incremental technology improvements become solid blocks of intellectual property because of patents, and it means that a lot of technology companies spend a lot of time in courts and meetings exchanging licenses and rights for the simplest things. The result is a slow down in innovation and competition based on first-come first-served rather than best product. It is worth noting that the Gotuit technologies use Flash to deliver content on the web, and that they currently power video for Lifetime Networks, FOX Reality, the NHL (baseball is now on Silverlight) and Sprint.