Red Hat Faces Patent Infringement Suit

Software company FireStar has filed suit against open source seller Red Hat, alleging patent infringement.  The suit, filed in the Eastern District of Texas, asserts infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,101,502 that is directed to a method of interfacing an object oriented software application with a relational database.  Red Hat recently purched JBoss maker of the specific accused product Hibernate 3.0.

Claim 1 of the ‘502 patent reads:

1. A method for interfacing an object oriented software application with a relational database, comprising the steps of:

  • selecting an object model;
  • generating a map of at least some relationships between schema in the database and the selected object model;
  • employing the map to create at least one interface object associated with an object corresponding to a class associated with the object oriented software application; and
  • utilizing a runtime engine which invokes said at least one interface object with the object oriented application to access data from the relational database.

Red Hat has its own patent policy “that software patents generally impede innovation in software development and that software patents are inconsistent with open source/free software.”

Notes:

  • File Attachment: FireStar Complaint.pdf (140 KB)
  • File Attachment: Patent 6101502.pdf (593 KB)
  • File History [Not yet]
    • 38 thoughts on “Red Hat Faces Patent Infringement Suit

      1. Peter Smith wrote, “The problem with software patents is that once any of the sequences to do a particular function is found, it precludes the use of all other sequences (except under license) that do the same thing.”

        This alleged problem is not limited to software. One may claim a broad genus (even when merely disclosing a species) in *most* method or apparatus patents regardless of whether the inventions were implemented in software, hardware or an ordinary mechanical device. Note that chemical and biological inventions have typically been treated differently.

        Nevertheless, inventing one software-implemented way to accomplish a result will not necessarily entitle one to a broader claim cover all software-implemented ways to accomplish that result. The Federal Circuit recently invalidated a software claim because it claimed a way to accomplish a result generically, but only described a particular way to accomplish the result. See LizardTech v. Earth Resource Mapping (“But because there are no limitations in claim 21 as to how the seamless DWT is accomplished, claim 21 refers to taking a seamless DWT generically. … The trouble with allowing claim 21 to cover all ways of performing DWT-based compression processes that lead to a seamless DWT is that there is no support for such a broad claim in the specification.”).

        I disagree with the LizardTech decision, but I’m sure many people hope it represents the start of a new trend to limit the breadth of software-implemented patents.

      2. “It is really simple: The software startup may have 10 patents, but Microsoft has tenthousands of patents.”

        I just wish that the software-patents-are-evil crowd could somehow move past the talking points issued by the geniuses at EFF etc., and come up with an argument that isn’t crackpot on its face.

        What’s the basic argument here? Why, that it’s MICROSOFT and its ilk that stands most to profit from software patents. After all, Microsoft has thousands and thousands of patents, and the poor innovator might only have a few!

        Look guys, don’t you think that if Microsoft REALLY wanted software patents, they would be advocating at the top of their lungs to build them up? Why, instead, are they, like you, doing absolutely everything in their power to undermine them, and to weaken the patent system instead? Do you really think they don’t know on what side their bread is buttered? Look at the history of Microsoft’s amicus briefs — they ALWAYS are on the same side as you with regard to patents. You two would seem to be the bestest buddies in the world on this issue, judging from the legal record. Does this in any way embarrass you, or make you think twice about whether you’re getting the straight dope from the shining lights at EFF about who stands to profit if software patents go away? Does anyone out there find that just a mite suspicious? Anyone? Anyone?

        Yes, Microsoft may have thousands of patents. But if a genuine innovator comes up with an important idea, then, by definition, that particular idea is NOT among the things that have been patented. The innovator absolutely should be able to patent THAT idea under those circumstances, and any such patents should, if they are well prosecuted, be rock solid, and not be capable of being overthrown in court or in any other way. THAT is how the patent system is set up to work.

        The point is, Microsoft’s thousands of patents may well have no relation whatever to the idea in question, so that Microsoft can’t come at the innovator with a patent suit. And even if Microsoft can dredge up some patent that comes at the innovator indirectly, the fact remains that the innovator has absolute veto power on ANYONE who would seek to build a business around that idea, Microsoft included. That veto power is of immense value. If that application is bringing in millions, or tens of millions, or hundreds of millions of dollars per year, NOBODY wants to stop that application, and the public will be outraged if anyone, Microsoft most definitely included, tried to stop it. That means that even in this case, Microsoft can’t effectively stop the innovator from doing its business AND that the innovator can have effective protections against Microsoft, even if Microsoft can manage through its suit to get some cut of the deal.

        It’s worth bearing in mind too that Microsoft simply is in no position to press a patent suit like this very far in any case. It’s a monopoly. It has been on record trying to advocate that many software patents can pose a great danger to innovation. It simply can’t turn on a dime and then use its own patents to shake down an authentic innovator. The public outcry over the hypocrisy of it doing so would be too much, and Microsoft knows its on shaky ground anyway in the eyes of the DOJ with its business practices.

        On the other hand, if there are NO patents standing in its way, Microsoft can simply do what it has always done: copy the application bodily, add a few trivial tweaks, and then say to the world, Oh look what a great service we’ve done you! We have a better version of the software! Just look at those tweaks! The bells! The whistles! That’s innovation, Microsoft style! And ours is cheaper for the time being! We’re so good, and so not evil!

        The point is, absent patents, there’s NOTHING in this scenario above that could be made to stick as representing bad business practices. THAT is the world the EFF and you seek to enable — indeed, you cheer it on. On your principles, you must regard this scenario as EXACTLY the best possible outcome.

        Contrary to the suggestions of EFF and friends, Microsoft, not surprisingly, has not in fact (to the best of my knowledge) ever dared to use its patent portfolio to shake down an innovator. Doesn’t this pretty much cinch the case against the notion that Microsoft is going to use its patent portfolio in the way the EFF brilliances suggest? Isn’t their argument just a crock?

        And one final point. You people talk about how its anti-innovation to “wall things off” via patents. But “walling things off” is PRECISELY what one wants to do, when Microsoft is in the picture — as it will be, if you have an important idea. If you DON’T wall things off from Microsoft, they will simply come in, copy every idea you’ve innovated, take over the business, and leave you with nothing. How many times does Microsoft have to do this before it sinks in with you people that that is what happens to innovations that are NOT protected, and get to a size Microsoft cares about?

      3. It was you who hypothesized that, for all the advances in computer science (you leave no qualifiers!), there must be a step of innovation in some point to get to a new product from its antecedents. I point out that this is not necessarily true, in general. I pains me to point out that I wrote that many innovations undoubtedly do offer such steps you insist must insist, yet you insist that I offer < >

        Please do not insult me with false attributions. Are you a troll?

      4. I agree with Tom, in great part; almost everything in everything is obvious. But further to that, I have always maintained that patents should be issued only on new, tangible *things*.

        I design hardware and firmware (and have done so for almost 4 decades) and there are some things that really are patentable. One example is the chip level buffers used in highspeed signalling – I have seen truly innovative solutions that reduce EMI, crosstalk and increase link reliability, but these inventions required completely new hardware level implementations that cost a lot of money. The costs, incidentally, can easily run into 10s of millions ($) for this sort of thing.

        If we compare a historic patent (Mr. Watt’s steam engine) against what the equivalent software patent would do we would find a major difference; the scope.

        The steam engine converts energy from one form to another, but only the specific method was patented; using steam to drive pistons to generate kinetic energy. The equivalent software patent (given the ones I have read) would have patented all forms of energy conversion that generate kinetic energy from steam (and perhaps from any ‘heated gas’).

        That would have made the steam turbine (which does the same overall but spins a turbine in the steam flow instead) subject to patent infringement, yet it was a totally separate invention using a totally different methodology to achieve the end result. That does not further the art, it stifles it.

        Apart from that, all deterministic software is fundamentally mathematics (implementations of algorithms) to which I object being given patent protection.

        So my view is if you can’t see a completely new actual physical device, you haven’t *made* anything new – you have really only changed the mode of operation of a general purpose device.

        On that subject, a processor is really a grab bag of logic (and perhaps some peripherals on the die) that may be configured as any one of it’s elements (storage, arithmetic objects, logical converters for instance) at any time in any sequence. As all sequences are known to be possible, there is no sequence that is not predictable.
        Not all sequences may be particularly useful, of course, and there is a certain amount of invention in finding a useful sequence, but many sequences can perform the same effect; some better, some worse. The problem with software patents is that once any of the sequences to do a particular function is found, it precludes the use of all other sequences (except under license) that do the same thing.

        Once the realisation that all software is mathematics sinks in, perhaps we’ll see a little sanity from the patent office.

        Pete

      5. IP due diligence

        With today’s Wild West mentality surrounding intellectual property rights, it pays to know what an acquisition target may hold. Or not hold, as the case may be. A recent story about FireStar Software Inc., a 5-year-old transaction automation company, s…

      6. I created a small website with MediaWiki to collect any possible Prior Art against this patent:

        http://helpredhat.dyndns.org

        Let’s work together to collect everything that comes in our minds to help Red Hat and show the world that this patent wasn’t a new invention!
        Additionally this patent was filed in Europe, Japan, Australia and Canada, but it is not granted everywhere yet. So if we find good prior art, we can also write objections to prevent this patent in other countries from the very beginning!

      7. Back in ’96 – ’97 I developed an application that used objects to access a database using Object Rexx, RexxSQL and OS/2. That floppy’s around somewhere.

        ghaeh shift-two spamcop.net

      8. Interesting, how many people here seem to be unable to grasp why software patents do NOT protect software startups from Microsoft.

        It is really simple: The software startup may have 10 patents, but Microsoft has tenthousands of patents.
        No software startup would be able to sue Microsoft and survive the countersuits for long.

        The only ones who dare to sue Microsoft over patents are patent trolls, who do not produce anything but lawsuits.

        Patents are important for industries where creating an invention means investing much money (like the pharma industry). But patents are not fostering but slowing down innovation for industries which rely on combining existing parts to create something new, and where innovation usually happens by small steps.

        Especially the software industry is on the extreme small-step and parts-combine side of the spectrum, and that is the reason why software patents simply do not work in the favour of the society.

        Please folks, remember: A patent is a deal between an individual and society. The society gains something because the patented technology becomes publicly available after some time, and the individual gains something, because it knows that it will be alone on the market for that time.

        As soon as technology would become publicly available no matter if the inventor kept it secret or not, the society (all of us) loose in the deal. All software patents are in that category. Why? Because there is not one single software product on this planet which has a functionality that can not be duplicated without knowing how it does it.

        Here seem to be some people who seriously belive that ideas need the same protection as physical goods. Ideas do explicitly not need that protection, because you cannot really steal an idea. You can copy an idea, and that might be either good or bad for the one you copied it from, but the fact that he still has his version of the idea means it was not stolen.
        The whole question of which ideas need which protection is closely tied to the question what is in our best interest. Fencing off whole landscapes of ideas with patents as it is currently the case in USA is hindering innovation and costs the economy huge amounts of money. Especially as a majority of software patents do in fact patent a problem, not a solution. In case of file format patents it is even a problem which was created by the inventor.

        Similar effects can be ssen for business method patents. What is the essence of capitalism? Of course a free market, where anyone can sell and buy anything at any price in any legal way. Business method patents are limiting how someone can buy or sell on the free market. That is a dangerous first step towards a restricted market. It might not be as bad as communism, but it is going in that direction.

      9. While true that all it takes to build software is brains and a computer… thus does not mean that there is no price for innovation. And in line with economic principles, the value that the consumer of this software percieves is also an important factor in the eventual pricing of this software.

        Now, open source s/w does not mean that this is coming free. The satisfaction/kicks that the developer gets is the cost of t is s/w. I dint think anyone is being philanthropist by writing open source. At best, there may be some academic angle, that I sure respect. But the lijes of jboss andhibernate are more like commercial open-src. Where it is backed a biz midel.

        Given that all dev have a conmercial motive, hard to agree that open-src as in the jboss form are necessarily promiting innivaruon. In any case, patenting an existing invention/creation can in no way be impeding any other innovations that open-src or other entities may want to create.

      10. PJ at Groklaw has asked about this and I have emailed her.

        You may want to look up Fujitsu and its ODB (II?) product from the 90’s and beyond.

        There was a link up with CA and a w3 org spec proposed by Fujitsu for XQl (?)

      11. There are lots of problems with software patents. As Charles Duffy says, any programmer will innovate like a cornered weasel when put to a novel task. That’s the whole benefit of programmable computers.

        Software requires an unusually low investment to produce, just a brain, a computer, and a keyboard, but any working software system requires the combination of hundreds if not thousands or tens of thousands of ‘ideas’ merged together.

        Patenting software is like patenting phrases in literature, or subtle plot points. Having a patent on “the protagonist crosses the street and sees a breathtaking woman” wouldn’t help advance the arts and sciences one bit, and it’s not clear why patents on software are any different.

        The reason software is so advanced today is that we had decades in which software was not retarded by patents. Microsoft would never have existed if software was commonly patented in the seventies and eighties, and neither would the vast majority of software companies in existence today. Video game?

        Sorry, the idea of an animated bullet reacting to on-screen contact with an animated character image was patented, so we’d have all had to wait for twenty years after Pong before anyone could write the next video game without Nolan Bushnell’s leave.

        Madness.

      12. It’s not that almost everything in software is obvious – it’s that almost everything in everything is obvious. Once you state a problem (whether in software or hardware) you’ve stated half of the solution.

        So from one point of view I guess that you could argue that humans are too smart – we see a problem, and we design an answer. Very rarely is there a cognitive leap, most answers are simple.

        If you tossed out the junk patents (defined as those devices that can’t work because they violate the laws of physics) you’d shrink the patent database to a quarter of it’s current size. Out of that 1/4 less than 1 percent of the patents existing aren’t obvious.

        1+1=2 – this is what the cast majority of patents say. This is not inovation, this is stagnation.

      13. crf,

        What kind of analysis are you offering? Just the generic observation that, well, it’s entirely possible that every last innovation in the past 30 years in software is entirely obvious, if you just analyze it in the right way? Is THAT meant as a serious “philosophical” observation? Why on earth do you believe that that is in fact what has taken place here, apart from your metaphysical ruminations on the subject?

        Look, you can analyze just about any idea you want so that, on some level, it seems “obvious”. I mean, wasn’t it “obvious” that one could take a bookkeeping page and program it into a computer, creating a spreadsheet? And isn’t it obvious even though, evidently, nobody was thinking about it at the time but the actual inventors of spreadsheet software? I mean, EVENTUALLY someone else would have hit upon the idea, right?

        Look, patents aren’t supposed to protect just the ideas that are so stupendously new and difficult to conceive that one person in a generation might come up with them. The bar of non-obviousness is, and must be, far lower than that, as it has been throughout the history of patents.

        Your reductionism would have the absurd consequence that all of the ideas in today’s software, as amazing and innovative and powerful and surprising as they seem to most people, are really just trivial extensions of what is already known. Who can take such an analsis seriously? Really, if you weren’t being driven by some ideology, why would you even make such an absurd argument?

      14. Tom, seriously, I hope that was a rhetorical question. Answering it doesn’t portend any deep philosophy supporting it, in any area of human endeavour.

        There are loads of examples were innovation happens in discrete steps, which careful research may delineate, and to which an “owner” may be defined. There are far more where the exact opposite is true, and even more where it is murky, or where ideas placed in the first category are later reconsidered and placed in the second by historians. Consider the evolution of languages, traffic laws, the concept of all the parts comprising an automobile, etc, etc. It patently NOT absurd to argue that, in many cases, progress does NOT happen in discrete innovative steps. It is more often like a complex mishmash of ideas, all intertwining, out of which sometimes arise products, seemingly spontaneously, like the evolution of life.

        Even worse, where it sometimes seems to one “skilled in an art” that an idea is unique, and unforseen, or unforseeable, that two or three or more people will spontaneously think the same very idea, without being in each other’s ‘sphere of influence’. How come? One ought to consider that often, two or more people, may spontanously undergo similar thought processes, likely strongly influenced in that direction by the current of prior scholarship or art.

      15. Guy,

        The problem with YOUR logic is that, somehow, at the end of the day, you seem to allow that NO innovation, no real, non-obvious invention ever seems to take place in software.

        I’ll certainly agree that some aspects of programming are quite routine — indeed, that is exactly what Microsoft does almost exclusively — following the “blueprints” that other people’s applications provide for them, and implementing them.

        But SOMEWHERE innovation must exist, right? Once upon a time, we did NOT have word processing programs, or spreadsheets, or databases, or web commerce, or photo manipulation software, or a gazillion other things that we now DO enjoy. SOMEWHERE in all that there has to be innovation, right, something that deserves the name and rights of an invention, don’t you think?

        Are are you simply going to make the absurd claim that it’s last bit of it obvious, because that’s what your ideology demands that you say?

      16. ”’So let’s see, the software industry is regarded as one of the great engines of innovation in the modern world, yet virtually every thing it originates is “obvious”?”’

        I’m more than happy, as a member of said industry (responsible for a number of elements of my company’s product and infrastructure which could be considered innovative) to argue from that position.

        Coming up with new algorithms and combining preexisting algorithms in new ways is what good software developers do as a matter of course. Give a competant staff a goal you want embodied, and they come up with an approach; it’s their job, and the art in which they are trained. In most cases, the algorithms to use are obvious given the problem being solved, even if those algorithms had never been used together in that way before; in other cases, a combination may be nonobvious — but still not worth the massive level of economic value which a patent can artificially assign. It’s thus not the mechanics of software’s implementation which is responsible for creating value, but rather the specification of what that software is intended to do: Given the specification of the intended functionality, an implementation (including any freshly invented algorithms which may be necessary to implement said spec) will almost always be found by an individual adequately skilled in the art. Consequently, those who are skilled in the art will very frequently consider patented “innovations” to be obvious in the sense that, if given the same requirements, they would have taken a similar approach.

        Allowing monopolies on individual components of software design — components which any skilled developer could have come up with if given a goal leading them in that direction — leads to developers who are hamstrung by having algorithms which could be in their toolbox of components to use in building larger projects unavailable due to legal concerns. Allowing monopolies on the product mechanics which influenced developers to implement those designs, on the other hand, leads to entire product categories being monopolized; this is far from supporting the public good.

        I can see the value of patents in areas such as pharmaceudicals where the level of investment and risk required to realize an invention are that much greater. On software, on the other hand, such “protection” seems simply asinine. As observers of the Open Source movement (or any debate regarding programming languages or development environments) can attest, programmers tend to be a dogmatic bunch, prone to taking moral stands on issues others might treat as purely practical.

        I don’t expect folks who are presently opposed to necessarily accept this viewpoint — but perhaps it may help to better explain why software developers often do not think to patent the combinations of algorithms included in their work.

      17. Much of today’s software was “invented” by Vannevar Bush in the 1940’s. Google for “As We May Think”. Pretty amazing for the time. Hypertext, GUIs, lots of stuff, all described in stunning detail. Hopefully the patent examiners have read his work.

      18. The problem here is that the solution was obvious by way of nessesity. In 2002 I and a co worker developed a system called System Modeler, which essentially plays the same role as Hibernate. The design is very similar to Hibernate because its solving the same problem.

        If a solution can be worked out just by looking at the requirements, how can it be said that its non trivial? As a counter example, the RSA patent was non trivial because although the problem of asymetric encryption was well known a means of implementing it was not. It was a great intellectual effort in coming up with RSA.

        Using schema mappings between objects and relation databases are done in many applications and development tools, including my own Sysmod tool. Hibernate is open source of course, and this kind of extortion is the most vile form of intimidation imaginable.

      19. [[ So let’s see, the software industry is regarded as one of the great engines of innovation in the modern world, yet virtually every thing it originates is “obvious”? ]]

        Erroneous application of logic. Most programming consists of stating the problem and then building the solution. Consider this:

        I have a database over there.

        I have a package written in an object based programming language here.

        Task: Make one work with the other.

        _ANY_ reasonable practitioner in the art is competent to do so. Solving a task does not innovation make.

        There are many, many possible methods to performing this particular task. The whole point of standards is to aggree on a particular method. i.e. ODBC, for example.

        The bulk of business programming is exactly this type of programming.

        Here’s a problem to solve/take care of. Write a program to take care of it.

        Using your logic would imply that every problem which gets solved by writing a program should be instantly patented.

        I re-iterate. Solving a problem does not mean innovation is taking place. Even when you’re the first person to do so. Which is obviously not the case here.

      20. Again, the software industry is hoist on its own petard by failing to document its work.

        That’s the central problem with software patents: a lack of a coherent base of prior art prior to 1980.

      21. Just read the History-Section of link to en.wikipedia.org :
        “Object database management systems grew out of research during the early to mid-1980s”

        and there are also several companys listed with products way earlyer than the patent filing date in 1998.

        Probably this is just another marketing f**k sponsored by the anti-floss-lobby ..

      22. The patent of software is relatively new. In the past the algorithm had to be actually in hardware (non-loadable) such as Univac’s compression for tape drives that became Unisys’s when Borroughs bought Sperry and then they became Unisys. The problem was that the “GIF” image used this algorithm. The other thing is the the Patent office does not research (or know anything about software) and looks at the application only (with the filer telling the prior art stuff on the form). Since an algorithm patent is written very broad, it can be applied to more than a single action. Software patents are bad (would be better if only good for say 2 or 3 years)!

        If software patents were around in 1969, then the hyper-text document, video conferencing, remote access of computer, multiple working together in a shared document from many computers, windowed gui interface would have all been patented back then when the more than hour demo was shown (it included the mouse which was later patented) and the usage of button presses performing programable actions when presed/released/corded (corded is more than one button at a time) would also be included. Having been into computers since 1967, I see very little “NEW” stuff just “re-worked” stuff or “re-use” of something.

      23. The patent of software is realativy new. In the past the algoritim had to be actually in hardware (non-loadable) such as Univac’s compression for tape drives that became Unisys’s when Boroughs bought Sperry and then they became Unisys. The problem was that the “GIF” image used this algortim. The other thing is the the Patent office does not research (or know anything about software) and looks at the application only (with the filer telling the prior art stuff on the form). Since an algorithm patent is written very broad, it can be applied to more than a single action. Software patents are bad (would be better if only good for say 2 or 3 years)!

      24. Tom,

        MS destroyed many innovative software companies, not just Borland.
        Remember Netscape ?
        They do it by shamelessly copying all the essential functionality and features of the software and adding many more features using their unlimited development budgets, and bundling the final product (e.g. Web browser) to Windows
        With Borland, it went further than this: MS openly recruited some key Borland developers
        – they pretty much had their recruiters working on Borland campus.
        There is just NO way a young underfunded startup can compete with MS in mainstream product line without securing some key functionality via patents. Copyright protection simply does not work when you try to compete with MS…

      25. So what would they like a judge to order RedHat to stop doing ? It’s not as if RedHat make money from selling software like fiction books; you can get source code for all RedHat’s software from their web site (and others) for free, and you can redistribute it as many times as you like (without or with your revisions) with no financial obligation to RedHat. And I don’t think you can patent ‘Business process of offering guarantees on software’, or ‘Business process of offering software integration services’, becuase those have been done before more than 20 years ago.

      26. “Most things in software is obvious as long as it is in your specific field of expertiese.”

        So let’s see, the software industry is regarded as one of the great engines of innovation in the modern world, yet virtually every thing it originates is “obvious”?

        Is that really what you want to argue?

      27. “patents were prohibited on software until 1998.”

        I think you’re confusing software patents with business method patents — the State Street decision regarding business method patents was in 1998.

        For more detail on software patents, see the summary in

        link to en.wikipedia.org

        Borland certainly could have pushed the envelope a bit on software patents had it chosen to do so — it became clear as early as 1981 that some aspects of software were patentable, though, apparently, the understanding of how patents applied to software was evolving through the early nineties.

        But Borland is simply one case among many of pioneers in the software industry refusing even to consider seriously applying for patents, then being punished for their stubborn, ill-advised choice. Even Netscape, as late as the mid-nineties thought, in its arrogance, that Microsoft could never catch it, and, practically as a matter of pride, refused to apply for patents.

        What would its founders and investors give now, one wonders, for a patent on the concept of a cookie, which Netscape invented?

      28. Oracle TopLink performs the same function as Hibernate. It was acquired by Oracle a couple years ago, but if the Wikipedia article is correct, the Java version was written in ’95/’96 and it existed in another form prior to that. IANAL, but I would guess that this qualifies as ‘prior art’.

      29. Why didn’t Borland and other pionears patent pionearing stuff? My guess is that the main reason is probably that they regarded their work as obvious and therefore not patentable.

        Most things in software is obvious as long as it is in your specific field of expertiese.
        This is the real problem with software patents.

      30. Reminiscing the old days, remember good olde DBKit and Enterprise Objects Framework (EOF)from Nextstep?

        Beautiful frameworks they were (esp. EOF), and many a smart application I wrote using them….they started in 1992 as well..

        Interestingly, Hibernate took many design patterns from EOF…

        check them out:

        link to en.wikipedia.org

        And they raise the patents now! Pah, greedy people with nothing but $$$$’s in their minds…

        Paul

      31. Looking at these set of claims anyway, I’d be pretty surprised if they could hold up to prior art, though there may be some tricks in their construction that escape me.

        But, assuming that Borland did indeed anticipate this product, what do we conclude? Most likely, that Borland never tried to patent its own invention, which would explain why the patent examiner came up empty when looking for prior art.

        And it goes to show how foolish the software industry has been. Again and again, pioneers in software, out of a truly stupid notion that they were somehow too wonderful to apply for patents, failed to protect their own pioneering inventions. This, of course, allowed Microsoft to eat their lunch for free, as it did to Borland in almost all their product lines (Delphi does persist, at least). Of course, during at least some of the early period of the software industry, it was unclear what aspects of software could be patented — but why on earth did these companies refuse even to make the attempt to seek patents, except out of utter obtuseness, and the kind of business blindness that makes one tear one’s hair out in hindsight?

        Borland didn’t file for patents, so far as I know, despite its having pioneered any number of critical applications — which, again, Microsoft happily copied and took over. If Borland HAD filed for such patents, don’t you think it would be in a vastly better business position than it is now? And that’s the real point of patents — NOT that sometimes some people can game the system to get mostly undeserved monies, but rather that true pioneers, precisely because they are pioneers, would be able to get rock solid patents that would survive all challenges, and would defend their business.

        I sometimes find it simply astounding to see how many people in software think they can somehow defy all experience and beat Microsoft by being “better” or “faster to the market”, or some such junk. In the end, such advantages always peter out compared to the externalities that Microsoft brings to the game, and the “close enough” copies it always manages to create, given enough time.

      32. Thanks Joe. Googling “object vision”, it seems Wikipedia has a relatively comprehensive list of old products for Borland. I’ll definitely look there first in the future.

        However, I do get more hits with objectvision (all one word). For example, one can download 2.0 here:
        link to vetusware.com

        Also, you can buy used copies of a reference manual on 2.0 here:
        link to amazon.com

        Maybe we should all chip in and send one to Foley and Lardner?

      33. ja

        It took me some time but I found the name of the product. It was “Object Vision” and was pulled from the market in 1993.

        Borland was in the database business long before issuing Delphi. I believe Delphi shared a database engine with Paradox (which was a flagship product of Borland’s for a long time – in tech years at least).

      34. Joe) Was the product you’re referring to originally called the Borland Database Engine?

        The Delphi 1.x spec ( link to bdn.borland.com ) describes Delphi as ‘incorporating the Borland Database Engine’ as if the
        BDE existed previously.

        Also, I think Delphi first came out around 95 or even before, well before this patent’s priority date.

      35. This is a patent that should never have been issued.

        Borland had a product years before this patent for linking object oriented programs to relational databases. I went looking for the name of the product but could not find it quickly – it ran on the Windows 3, it came after Paradox and before Delphi and could link to multiple database structures including btrieve.

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