Monday, February 04, 2008

Patently ridiculous

SCO has had a pretty hostile press over the last few years as it morphed from a real software business into a patent mining outfit. Well, I've now come across another case of patent ambulance chasing over at Vincent McBurney's blog on ITToolbox. JuxtaComm and Teilhard versus IBM Microsoft Informatica SAP etc tells the story so far - basically that a small company is claiming it invented ETL, patented it in 1997, and can it now have loads-a-money if you please.

I followed Vince's link to Groklaw where InterSystems, one of the parties, is asking for help.

One of the parties is DataMirror (now part of IBM, and the purchaser of my former employer Constellar). As tne SQL Group, Constellar had an ETL system that seems to fit the key claims as early as 1994 (to my personal knowledge - it may have been on the market in 1993)

I'm stunned that (apparently) Oracle has already caved, handing over $2 million. One of the reasons I am so surprised is:
  • I was actually working for Oracle UK in 1994 - the Constellar Hub (then known as Information Junction) was evaluated for one of my clients (who ended up purchasing ETI instead).
  • Oracle UK was involved in quite a few pre-sales to Telecoms, Pharma and others over the period 94-2000.
  • Oracle US consultants helped support the product in at least a few US clients.
  • Constellar's US office was actually sublet from Oracle Corp, and I know many efforts were made to sell (the product and/or the company) to Oracle in around 1997 timescale.
  • Oracle's own WarehouseBuilder must date from around then if not earlier.

Of course, Constellar wasn't alone at the time. We competed over time against ETI, Prism, Vmark/Ardent/Ascential, Informatica, and all the others (as well as the ubiquitous roll-your-own, which is still probably the market leader).

Slipping the litigants $2 million may be cheaper than arguing the case for Oracle - but for the rest of us (especially any cash strapped open source projects) it's not an option. And I'm sure a sharp lawyer at IBM might like a bit of ammunition to see them off. Hey IBM, you're innocent!

So if any ETL pioneer (or their heirs and successors) wants my testimony to fight off JuxtaComm's malicious and meritricious suit - just let me know! I'm available for testing out the trans-atlantic business class beds any time you like...

Update 13 March 2008: more from Vincent here.

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