Friday, July 1, 2011

The Juxtacomm patent may soon be invalidated

I learned yesterday (via Vincent McBurney's blog) that the infamous "ETL patent" (technically, patent 6,195,662 - System for transforming and exchanging data between distributed heterogeneous computer systems) is being re-examined by the U.S. Patent Office. The examiner intends to withdraw essentially all of the claims.

It's a bit tricky to get information about this from the USPTO web site, and it's not possible to link to much of its content. If you want to look, here are the necessary steps:

  • Go to the Public PAIR start page, type in the captcha, and click "continue".
  • In the "search for application" panel, make sure the top radio button is selected ("Application number"), enter 90/011267 in the box, and click "search".
  • Click on the "Image File Wrapper" tab. You'll then see a list of documents associated with the application. You may want to look at Reexam proceeding - Advisory Action, dated 06-07-2011, 9 pages. It states the intent to withdraw claims 1-11 and 14-19.
The patent is held by Teilhard Technologies, a privately-held Canadian firm, also known as Juxtacomm. They successfully used this patent to reach settlements with a large number of companies (Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, Informatica, and many more) worth millions of dollars.

In 2009, while working for IBM, I was deposed in the matter and got to see, up close and personal, how this kind of legal action works. I can't discuss my involvement in any detail, but I will say that it was my impression that there was adequate prior art to have prevented this patent from issuing. This was a stupendous waste of resources; the defendants in the case seem to have paid out nearly $100 million in settlements, to say nothing of the money spent on legal fees. The supposed purpose of the patent system - to encourage innovation - was not served in any way by this affair. 

I don't know how to fix our patent system, but this case is a clear demonstration that it's broken.

Update This American Life has done a show on patent trolls.


  1. I worked on a ETL tool for Information Builders back in 1993. I can tell you that the Juxtacom patent claim was BS. Total waste of time and money for all parties. Juxtacom should be made to repay the costs of refuting this bogus claim.

  2. Uh oh - patent appeal board reversed the examiner in her entirety.