RealNetworks said it has received a fundamental patent for streaming media technology and applications. The patent (U.S. Patent No. 6,985,932, "Click-to-Stream") covers what RealNetworks calls core methods used when consumers select links to stream audio-visual media via Web browsers and other media players.
The patent describes what is now the very common practice of initiating the streaming of audio or audio-visual content over the Internet. The patent is agnostic when it comes to the playback device being used by the consumer.
RealNetworks is dating the claim back to 1994, when the idea of streaming content was indeed new. What is unclear is if the patent describes an actual technological innovation, or if it describes anything fundamentally different from Apple's QuickTime patent, issued earlier in 1994.
If it stands, the patent could obligate any company that streams content to negotiate for rights with RealNetworks.