Creating A List From A Database? Prepare For A Patent Infringement Suit

from the promoting-what-progress? dept

Thanks to the whole slew of folks who sent this in: TechCrunch has the details on Channel Intelligence, a company that owns a ridiculously broad and obvious patent on creating a list from a database and is now suing a whole bunch of small websites that offer things like wishlists. Read through the claims of the patent and see if you can explain how a single one is possibly new or non-obvious to those in the space. As TechCrunch notes, the lawsuits are all targeted against smaller websites, rather than the big players like eBay or Amazon. There are a variety of reasons why this might be. Channel Intelligence may have approached those companies and actually received a token payout (cheaper than a lawsuit for those companies). Or, perhaps more likely, it's using these smaller lawsuits to bring in some additional cash and to establish the myth that this patent is valid. That was common a few years back, before people started suing everyone at once for patent infringement. Patent holders would mostly target a few small companies, who wouldn't be able to launch a strong legal defense -- use those "victories" to build up a warchest while also claiming that it showed how the patents are "valid."


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
    identicon
    Freedom, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 1:02pm

    Really a good thing...

    I actually hope stuff like this happens more. It will attract even more greed which in turn will just highlight the problems with patents and hopefully finally get some meaningful change. I don't think we've hit rock bottom yet, but the more of these type of lawsuits and we'll get there a lot quicker.



    Freedom

     

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    Anonymous of Course, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 1:09pm

    Greed Or Stupidity?

    The only thing you can count on is when you've think
    you've see it all that something like this pops up.

    I hope it's some evil genius master plan sort of
    thing but that doesn't explain the patent office
    granting the patent.

     

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    dc (profile), Jul 17th, 2008 @ 1:11pm

    comments?

    Gee, if that's what the patent is for, it would seem to cover comments on blogs, too. That's a lot of fish to go after.

     

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    Willton, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 1:15pm

    Obviousness? --> Reexam

    I don't know jack about this type of technology, but if it really is that obvious, an inter partes reexam might be a good option for the defendants. It's a hell of a lot cheaper than fighting it out in district court.

     

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    mkam, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 1:31pm

    Related Patents = Joke

    Did anyone see the related patents.
    Online shopping changes based on history of the user? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!

    http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT5909023

    "An online shopping support method and system capable of supplying proper services matching user specific needs and conditions. Purchase history information of each good purchased by each user is stored at a service offering system. In response to an input of identification information from a service use system, the service offering system searches the purchase history information of the user corresponding to a user identifier and calculates a purchase interval of each good purchased by the user. The service offering system judges, for each good whose purchase interval was calculated, whether the time corresponding to the purchase interval has lapsed after the latest purchase day. The service offering system transmits information of the good whose time corresponding to the purchase interval has lapsed to the service use system via a communication network and displaying the information at the service use system."

    Is this the same as you shop at a place for a while and they recognize you and give you a better deal? I do this all the time at restaurants or bars. Oh, but wait it is online so it is now patentable. I wonder if anyone has patented doing this on a mobile phone yet?

     

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    Wiley, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 1:32pm

    WTF? Patent creating a file?

    This patent basically describes creating a database file -- almost any database file. Wow, that's original, if this is 1960. I thought the "Patent Examiners" were supposed to have knowledge of the field.

     

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    MLS, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 2:01pm

    If this patent is so obvious, then I presume you should be able to provide links to one, two or three publications that fairly teach the features of the inventions defined in its 63 claims. An affidavit specifying verifiable facts can be substituted for one of more of the publications.

    I do not know if this patent truly meets all tests under our patent laws, but I do know this...everything seems obvious once you have the answer in hand.

     

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      Chuck, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 2:10pm

      Re: 7

      I have a one word answer for you: XML
      It should satisfy all points on the patent, is very well documented, and is an open standard. There are others, many, many others, but I'll leave it at that.

       

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      Mark Murphy, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 2:35pm

      Re:

      The main targets for providing prior art are the independent claims -- the ones that don't reference other claims in the patent. In this case, that's #1, #43-46, #58, and #61.

      Also, prior art does not necessarily have to be in the form of a publication; products work as well, so long as there is proof that they were available as of the filing date and had the stated capabilities, AFAIK.

      So, for example, #1 is met by Microsoft Access or any other database program capable of storing its data on a file or database server. And #61 is called "denormalized tables" and has been around for decades.

       

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        Willton, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 3:12pm

        Re: Re:

        Also, prior art does not necessarily have to be in the form of a publication; products work as well, so long as there is proof that they were available as of the filing date and had the stated capabilities, AFAIK.

        That's not totally true. In order to invalidate this patent, the products you ellude to, whether they exist or not, would have to be available either before the invention date, which may be or may not be the filing date (see 35 USC sec 102(a), or more than a year before the filing date (see sec. 102(b)).

        So if MS Access has been available since 1999 and it covers everything in claim 1 like you say, then you have an anticipated patent claim that's unenforceable. However, that's assuming you're correct that MS Access covers Claim 1.

         

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          Willton, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 3:14pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Crap, I just realized I forgot about 102(g), which could also be a basis for invalidating the patent here.

           

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          DanC, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 3:43pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          By my reading, claim one could be satisfied with setting up a database to store list information and using a simple ADO connection to manage the database content through a website.

          So if MS Access has been available since 1999

          It's been available since 1992, and ADO was released by Microsoft in 1996.

          It seems that this patent attempts to obfuscate basic database functionality in order to appear novel. Claim 1 covers the use of unique primary keys to identify records, whereas Claim 2 describes the concept of associated fields. The remaining claims make this particularly obvious; For example, claims 3 - 6 describe setting up a record with a generated (i.e. autonumbered) unique primary key and storing information in that record.

           

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          identicon
          John Wilson, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 9:24am

          Re: Re: Re:

          If Access doesn't turn your crank of this one then let's submit dBase which, in it's various forms, has been around since the 1970s.

          Or, if it's a more relational database for the desktop then one can cite Paradox which appeared in the mid 80s.

          Not to mention SQL databases like Oracle which have been around for that long too though in server space, which is what we're dealing with here.

          All more than cover and refute Claim 1.

          ttfn

          John

           

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      La Cuccaraccha, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 10:32pm

      Re:

      Well, the whole idea behind a database is to gather information into a concise, common format. Usually with goals to ultimately present the data in some sort of table format.

      Possibly oversimplification, but if this Channel Intelligence outfit really wants to go for meat, they should sue a bank for creating a list of transactions (think of a bank statement) or a retailer for creating a list of purchases during a single transaction (think of a reciept).

      This seems silly to patent seemingly "obvious" functionality of existing technology that has existed for years!

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 2:27pm

    Just another example of why software (and business processes) should not be patentable.

     

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      identicon
      party of the first part, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 5:51pm

      Re: Don't patent Boiling Rice next. or Intuitively obvious to the most casual observer

      re:
      Just another example of why software (and business processes) should not be patentable.

      yes. dittos.

      1. it was obvious. Get a smarted patent board. What is the recourse for a stupid decision? One-Click patent? How did this happen?

      2. I thought a patent was about a particular device that did something, not an idea. Was the code the same. Burden should be on the other side (the accuser of course)

      3. I like that, no soft patents. No trademarking normal words. Copyrights to run out after several years, not be extended to protect big corporate profits.
      Forbidding Mickey Mouse satires does not increase creativity. It's an extension of the big, "MINE!"

      --
      Thanks for letting me talk, so to speak.
      Thanks for letting me share, so to type.
      Ah, the eternal language phenomenon.

       

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    identicon
    Mark, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 2:41pm

    Wouldn't this affect like...ALL businesses worldwide? Creating a list from a database is a feature of Microsoft Access. If this goes through, would ALL businesses using ANY kind of database software be sued?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 2:45pm

    google sets?

    Isn't Google's "Sets" (in more->labs section) tyhe epitome of making lists from databases? As in all crawled websites "li" items used to generate sets? But i guess google attorneys are bigger & better...

     

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    MAtt, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 2:48pm

    Is it patentable?

    I truly am confused why such a thing is patentable. Acknowledging such patents can literally grind independent web development to a halt. There are only so many ways one can use a web page, a database and a scripting language. All possible (and reasonable) combinations of collecting data on a web form and processing it can easily be patented away from average users.
    Anyway, shouldn't something like this be a trade secret rather than a patent? I highly doubt Home Depot, et al, read the patent and then created their web site and database. In fact, they likely had no idea who these people were when they put their inventory on line.
    What Channel Intelligence "invented" is really quite obvious.
    Matt

     

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    Old Geezer, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 3:28pm

    Shucks, you don't even need to go as "futuristic" as MS Access. You could use dBase, Foxpro, or maybe even "visicalc" as prior art.

     

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    Developer Guy, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 3:32pm

    The US is stifling their potential as a software powerhouse with these stupid patents and expensive lawsuits. How can an entrepreneur venture forth into the software world when such basic functionality has been patented by lawsuit happy patent trollers.

    I would love to start my own IT company, and it is things like this that make me hesitate (or want to move abroad).

    My two cents.

     

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    identicon
    Stute, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 3:49pm

    Wait a second...

    Okay, I might be a little fuzzy here... But isn't a database already a list?


    That's like saying you're going to make a list from the phone book.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 4:14pm

    You can thank Amazon and Ebay!

    BUY NOW!

     

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    identicon
    Matt, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 4:46pm

    What Junk

    The fact that someone attempted to patent this is crazy, but the REAL problem is that the patent was awarded.... A tool that should be used to protect a true inventor is being and has been abuse to the point that it is now useless.

     

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    Bucky J. Powers, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 4:47pm

    WTF???

    As long as ol' bucky has been in this business I have never seen some so Freaking Ignorant. Since I have been programming for upwards of 20 years I have worked in a lot of different databases.

    Maybe I should sue them for stealing my ideas of database structure and not paying me anything for it.

    It's time to Sue the Stupid MF's who bring forth these Dumb Ass Lawsuits!!

     

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    identicon
    T.J., Jul 17th, 2008 @ 4:57pm

    Warning:

    This comment infringes on Channel Intelligences' patents.

    Seriously though, being a web developer, the majority of websites in todays world use databases on the back-end. Hell Usenet has been "making lists from databases" for almost 30 years now. If for some reason this patent actually holds, it means the majority of the internet (and tons of software companies) will be liable for patent infringement.

     

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    identicon
    Tony, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 6:55pm

    Here's what we do...

    Get a patent on a "Method of displaying interactive images". This method involves the use of a display monitor that may be a television, a computer monitor, a dedicated display device, or any other means of displaying a graphical image. The method additionally involves the use of a device to receive input from users. Such device may be in the form of a keyboard, mouse, joystick, trac-ball, buttons, sensors, or any connected or wireless device capable of providing input.

    Then we sue over every video game on the market today.

    Really. Maybe that would get people to actually do something about this lunacy.

     

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    Federico Cáceres, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 8:19pm

    Simply ridiculous

    This is madness!

    Is it my lack of technical understanding or this "patent" is so ambiguous that someone can just use it as an excuse to kick anyone in the head with it, with no reason whatsoever?

    Why would ANYONE register such a patent?!

    Makes me so sad when I read about these obscure patents that emerge out of nowhere just to annoy others.

    Isn't there some regulation entity that verifies the validity of these patents? Something like: "No Sir, I'm sorry, but you CANNOT patent breathing...".

    This is just bullying.

     

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      Allen (profile), Jul 18th, 2008 @ 1:35am

      Re: Simply ridiculous

      "Why would ANYONE register such a patent?!"

      Because the system is so messed up that they might just get it. With the patent they might use it to

      a) sue some sucker who might cave and pay them money or
      b) when some troll tries to sue them for some patent infringement, pull it out and counter sue.

      Thats the way the game is played.

       

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    PAtent Whore, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 5:32am

    I'm patenting the idea of suing small companies first for patent infringement. I'm also patenting the idea of suing large companies first. And patenting the idea of suing both small and large companies simultaneously.

    Because no one would have ever thought of any of those ideas!

     

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    identicon
    David, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 5:47am

    Patents and Claims

    > I thought a patent was about a particular device that did something, not an idea.

    That's true up to a point. You are patenting only the specific implementation of an idea, not the idea itself. However patents also allow you to suggest to the examiner what variations to your specific blueprints should be considered trivial and should not result in a separate invention.

    When used as they were intended, this makes perfect sense. For example, the inventor of the Clockwork Radio would have submitted details of his design, which might for example have described a particular sort of spring. He could (and probably did) reasonably claim that simply substituting a different type of spring does not constitute a different invention.

    The problem with Patent Claims is where to draw the line, the examiner wants to allow some scope or the patent will be useless, but if he allows too much (as is the case here) it stifles innovation.

     

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    Scott, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 6:06am

    Seems like...

    this patent covers databases in general. I thought that a "plurality of lists" was more or less the definition of a database. And that database/webpage relationships are EVERYWHERE on the web.

     

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    identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 6:07am

    VSAM and SQL

    Look at VSAM on the old IBM mainframes. It dates from 1974, with the OS 370/VS2 operating system. VSAM does not have all of the features of a modern database. Most notably, the fields within a record are not explicitly declared. You can set up multiple keys by declaring ranges of bytes (eg. 1st key is 6 bytes at offset 10, 2nd key is 6 bytes at offset 25, etc), and you have to create a record declaration within your PL/I or COBOL program which matches the VSAM declarations. SQL, dating from the late 1970's, and standardized in 1986, improved this by providing a mechanism to declare the fields in the database, and then declare some fields as keys.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VSAM
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SQL

     

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    identicon
    Francis, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 7:12am

    PTO

    The Patent system is broken. It is broken because the PTO finds it easier to grant a patent application than to become enmeshed in a lawsuit filed by the applicant arguing that his/her application is valid. If they grant the application, no lawsuit and no problem - for the PTO. Then the rest of us are left to sort out the problems, pay the legal fees, etc. And the granting of obvious patents is a major part of the problem.

    I hold two patents filed by companies I worked for. One should have been granted; in retrospect, the other should not have been.

     

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    eMike, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 7:19am

    Is it too late to patent creating a database from a list?

     

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    identicon
    Frank Shook, Jul 19th, 2008 @ 5:03pm

    It's like trying to patent the array structure in C programming.

    SQL doesn't make room for something like a "list" of values.

    For instance, there's no such thing as defining a single field that holds a series of x-y value pairs (example: {{x=0, y=0}, {x=2, y=5}, {x=50, y=72}, {x=100, y=100}}.

    A separate 'one-to-many' relational table is required. This table has three fields: id, x, and y. To get the complete set of x-y pair values the query looks up all x-y pair records associated with the id field.

    Looks like TechCrunch describes this in its patent claim. I don't think such a vague and fundamental claim can be upheld. It's like trying to claim a patent for the common array structure in C programming.

    FYI: FileMaker has natively used such a list structure for as long as I can remember.

     

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