IBM Patents Removing Leading/Trailing Blanks

from the _um_-_wow_ dept

theodp writes "With its example of how ‘ John Doe ‘ could be saved in a database as ‘John Doe’ (i.e., without leading or trailing blanks), purported patent reformer IBM dazzled the USPTO enough to earn Big Blue a patent last Tuesday for Automatically removing leading and trailing space characters from data being entered into a database system . The three IBM ‘inventors’ are also seeking a related patent for Retrieving data from a database system without leading and trailing space characters. Hey, if the patent system ain’t broke, don’t fix it!"

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Companies: ibm

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Comments on “IBM Patents Removing Leading/Trailing Blanks”

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Randy says:


are obsoleted by this patent. The patent allows for an automatic L/R/TRIM built into the saving of the data into a database.

However, the patent does not cover displaying the data on a screen in trim’d format. So, if you get user input on one screen, and do not save it to a “database” but display it later on a different screen you do not run afoul of the patent.

I wonder why they didn’t include that function too?


mobiGeek says:

Re: Prior Art

The patent isn’t for the TRIM function…it is for the automatic use of the TRIM function for data being input into a database.

Not that this is “ground breaking”, but the truth of the matter is that no RDBMS that I know of does this today, so they decided to patent it.

They may have done so in order to stop someone else from blocking them (i.e. someone else patenting the idea). It is cheaper to spend resources pushing through a lame patent that you end up owning, rather than having to fight that same patent that someone else “invents”.

The only “prior art” that I can think of off-hand is Sybase SQL Server (i.e. MS SQL Server) and its automatic appending of blanks in order to “fill” a column to its fixed size. That is, insert “foo” into a CHAR(10), and the RDBMS automatically appends 7 spaces.

Xiera says:

So what?

I fail to see how this is important or even a good idea.

If programmers want to trim the whitespace off their strings, they could do so before and they will still be able to do so. What if the programmers want to maintain the whitespace for some reason, will they be able to do so?

(Of course, this is all assuming you’re using an IBM database…)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: To Da Lawyers...

Noone has to certify anything is novel before submitting it as a patent application to the USPTO; that is something they check before issuing the patent (and seem to have failed to do here). An Expert Witness is called to testify only when a patent is being investigated and/or challenged (after its been granted).

Lion XL says:

I guess none of you read the actual patent.....

it’s about not having to rely on ltrim, rtrim, etc. Any DBA understands that using a function on a table column pretty much sux ass, slows down retreival to a crawl( for any decent sized db). This patent addresses automatically removing them before saving so the dev doesn’t have to worry about it on every db update/select. It will be implemented by a DB setting/column setting so it happens automatically without intervention.

I once created an SP that would clean up columns on scheduled basis to trim out uneccesary spaces, to reduce the DB size(yeeears ago when HD space mattered!), took a full weekend to clean up the DB. We still had to be carefule to trim spaces in our code/queries because in between cleanups the spaces would still be there. This method eliminates that.

But to grant a patent………

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I guess none of you read the actual patent.....

We still had to be carefule to trim spaces in our code/queries because in between cleanups the spaces would still be there. This method eliminates that.

Or… you just trim() before calling your DB update… what is so difficult about that? Hell, I wrote just such a method back when I was getting my Bachelor’s degree. it just makes sense.

KGWagner says:

Defensive patents

As RevMike pointed out earlier, IBM is pretty good about patenting things just because they can in order to keep someone else from doing it and throwing a spanner in the works. They then allow free license to use the patent. Until software patents are finally and properly disallowed, this kind of behavior is to be expected. It keeps the trolls from making a mess of things.

The frightening part is if IBM’s management changes and their attitude about such things changes with it. They could be holding a bajillion patents that would make writing software nearly impossible. For instance, MIT currently holds a patent on linked lists that was just awarded a couple years ago. Those have been in use since the 1960s, and tons of prior art exists because it’s such a fundamental methodology. They’re not enforcing their patent, but what if they did? Tons of software across almost all disciplines would suddenly be infringing.

rubberman (profile) says:

Obvious and trivial can't be patented

This is SOOOO obvious, and there is certainly prior art for this. Oracle’s varchar data types automatically right-trim input data. Having it left-trim input data as well could be done as a trigger or trivial update to the database code. In my opinion, this is patent proof that the US Patent Office’s review process for software patents is totally fubar (pun intended)!

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