Tony Bain

Building products & teams that leverage data, analytics, AI & automation to do amazing things

Former XPrime founder vs Datallegro

August 25, 2008 | Tony Bain

IP protection in software has always been a difficult area to manage largely due to so much of software development occurring on the basis of iterative innovation rather than outright invention.  That is, a developer often creates software that does something clever to address a shortfall in existing software.

The reason I am brining this up is due to a former XPrime founder filing an accusation of patent infringement on a Datallegro founder.  This filing occurred with a couple of weeks of Datallegro announcing that it was to be acquired by Microsoft.  Those of you who don't remember XPrime, they were around between about 2003 and 2006 building an appliance query accelerator for SQL Server.

The patent at the centre of this issue really relates to distributed data and distributed query processing.  This patent seems to be related to horizontal partitioning (rows) not vertical partitioning (columns) as reported by some media outlets.  This patent is in the area of distributed databases, commonly called distributed partitioning, database federation, parallel databases or shared nothing databases.  The actual claim of the patent relates mostly to proportionally distributing tables between nodes (round robin) and a method for transmitting the relevant section of each table to each node for the purpose of joining those tables, then transmitting back and constructing a resultset.

On a side note, 2004 is very late in the day for patenting what appears to be a very simplistic distributed database strategy.  When this patent was filed in 2004 most major RDBMS vendors already some form distributed database processing in their products (I couldn't find reference in XPrimes patent to this prior art).

In Datallegro’sown patent application they have referenced a similar stratergy as above in discussion of the existing parallel database methods in the lead up to the discussion of their new innovation (prior art).  In my view, the Xprime patent comes across as a very basic high level conceptual patent for a shared nothing database, the Datallegro patent application is more practically focused and introduces concepts to address real world scalability issues (vertical partitioning, query results caching, distribution of dimension tables, hash partitioning rather than round robin).

If these “iterative innovations” are enough to justify new invention in a legal sense, we will find out.