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Help! DBD/DBIx::Chart need patent protection!

by renodino (Curate)
on Feb 19, 2009 at 22:28 UTC ( #745213=perlquestion: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

renodino has asked for the wisdom of the Perl Monks concerning the following question:

Someone has just alerted me to the following patent attempt by our friends at IBM:

Data Plotting Extension for Structured Query Language

Given that DBD::Chart predates the filing by at least 7 years (in fact, you can still get a version from CPAN from 2002, and I think BackPAN may have stuff from 2000/2001), I'd like to make sure this thing gets killed. Does anyone know an open source patent holding group, or someplace I can submit prior art claims ?

Considering theres been a searchable webpage since about 2002, and in fact the DLJB is actually rendered using it, its apparent someone is hoping for USPTO laziness.


After some suggestions (here and elsewhere), I've contacted the EFF in hopes they can provide some guidance.

It also occured to me that PL/R provides a charting capability inside of PostgreSQL, so I've contacted their maillist to see if they have an interest in pursuing a claim as well.

Perl Contrarian & SQL fanboy
  • Comment on Help! DBD/DBIx::Chart need patent protection!

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Re: Help! DBD/DBIx::Chart need patent protection!
by ikegami (Pope) on Feb 19, 2009 at 23:22 UTC
    The patent and DBD::Chart cover different grounds. The patent very specifically covers an extension to SQL (including new keywords) to be used to apply a transform on the output of a query. DBD::Chart does not extend SQL — it creates virtual tables instead — and cannot be used to transform the output of queries.

    Update: Improved the grammar.

      Er, huh ? Which part of the SQL syntax in DBD/DBIx::Chart *isn't* about charting ? e.g., from the DBIx::Chart homepage, first example:
      select * from simpline returning linegraph(*), imagemap where WIDTH=500 AND HEIGHT=500 AND X_AXIS='Some Domain' AND Y_AXIS='Some Range' AND TITLE='Linegraph Test' AND SIGNATURE='(C)2002, GOWI Systems' AND LOGO='t/gowilogo.png' AND FORMAT='PNG' AND SHOWGRID=1 AND LINEWIDTH=4 AND MAPNAME='simpline' AND MAPURL=' +lotno=:PLOTNUM' AND MAPTYPE='HTML' AND COLOR='newcolor' AND SHAPE='fillcircle' AND SHOWVALUES=1

      Perl Contrarian & SQL fanboy

        Which part of the SQL syntax in DBD/DBIx::Chart *isn't* about charting

        None of it is. Except maybe for "returning", that would run fine on a MySQL database (for example).

        In fact, I can't find "returning" anywhere in the documentation. I don't think it's part of DBD::Chart's syntax either.

      I'd be very wary of making this judgement. (Unless you're a patent lawyer and this is your legal advice on this case, of course :-)

      I also had a look at the DBIx::Chart homepage, and the text under "Show SQL" does look like SQL which produces graphs, complete with an addition to the SQL tokens ("RETURNING"). I think the patent is trying to claim such a kind of language.

      I don't think that the DBIx::Chart implementation has any bearing. The patent claims a "system", and a system can be implemented in any number of peices.

      I'm no lawyer, but prima facie I'd say that the patent and DBIx::Chart may be in conflict.

      use JAPH;
      print JAPH::asString();

        I also had a look at the DBIx::Chart homepage,

        There was no mention of DBIx::Chart in the OP. My reply only applies to the module he did mention, DBD::Chart. I made no comments regarding DBIx::Chart. Having not found the word "returning" in the source for DBD::Chart, I didn't realize he pulled a switcheroo on me in his second post.

        It looks far more likely that DBIx::Chart might have common ground with the patent.

Re: Help! DBD/DBIx::Chart need patent protection!
by Tanktalus (Canon) on Feb 21, 2009 at 06:54 UTC

    If your sole concern is patent liability, you're probably ok. IBM has given some general assurances that it won't hold patents against open source software. Of course, saying and doing are two different things, so "probably ok" in the court of law may not be exactly comforting. Besides, the patent going through can confuse issues of originality and novelty, which may damage your company's reputation.

    If you're really concerned about invalid patents, and this isn't just about protecting your company's bottom line from liability (which there's nothing wrong with, just pointing out that different motivations may have differing approaches), then you may want to try to contact IBM itself. The IBMer in question who filed the patent is listed - you should actually be able to get in contact with him. A quick google for ibmer phone number reveals a way to find IBMer information by going to and plugging in the name. It's no good for finding a list of IBMers, but if you have a name, and they're still employed by IBM, you can get that person's email address and phone number fairly easily. I'm not sure a phone call is necessarily the best, perhaps an email to start, but at least it's something. I think it goes without saying, but of course you should be professional about it and not harass the guy, just point out the prior art. Further, if you do have any communication with IBM about it, keep notes. After each communication, keep a written log. If it's email, this is easy - just print out the emails, or at least save them in an archive to make the conversation easy to follow. As long as we're dealing with legal issues here (and PTO is about the law, not about technology), you should keep notes. IBM has plenty of lawyers - you're not going to outspend them, so you better make sure you have everything written down so that your lawyer can either get you out before you spend too much or can win a defense on the cheap. Hopefully, of course, it wouldn't get that far (see "general assurances" above), but better safe than sorry, since you seem to already be concerned about it.

Re: Help! DBD/DBIx::Chart need patent protection!
by bibliophile (Parson) on Feb 20, 2009 at 15:02 UTC
Re: Help! DBD/DBIx::Chart need patent protection!
by ELISHEVA (Prior) on Feb 21, 2009 at 20:25 UTC
    The idea of filing a notice of prior art and then having the PTO reject your notice as "not prior art", sounds very interesting to me and definitely worth discussing with a patent lawyer. Better to have that determination made early on by the PTO than after the fact in a court of law.

    Contacting IBM (with the agreement of your lawyer) may not be such a bad idea either. Patents are normally written in as broad a language as possible and only narrowed when the PTO or others claim prior art. All this costs money and IBM may actually be grateful for a heads up that their patent language is overly broad. On the other hand, they may also disagree with you - in which case you can follow tanktalus's advice and keep the communication documented. If they do later on try to claim infringement, you can use that communication to show that at one point in time IBM itself admitted that there was no infringement.

    As far as documenting the communication, this also needs to be discussed with your lawyer. Emails are evidence, but not as strong as a letter written on company letter head with a signature of an authorized employee. The latter is much harder to forge.

    An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure

    And in this case it might be a hell of a lot cheaper.

    Best, beth

    Update: fixed some unclear wording

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