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Red Hat Sued Over Hibernate ORM Patent Claim 170

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the done-it-first dept.
fmarines writes "Firestar Software has filed a patent claim against Red Hat for infringing on a patent Firestar filed in 2000 covering O/R mapping. The amount of the lawsuit was not disclosed. The complaint centers around JBoss 3, and the patent claims that JBoss was given prior notice that marketing, distribution, and support services violates Firestar's patent, and that Firestar 'has suffered and will continue to suffer substantial damages.' Firestar produces the ObjectSpark, an transactional object mapping engine which appears to not have had a new release since May 2003, according to the Firestar press release page."
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Red Hat Sued Over Hibernate ORM Patent Claim

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  • by N3wsByt3 (758224) <Newsbyte&freenethelp,org> on Friday June 30, 2006 @07:43AM (#15635212) Homepage Journal
    Red Hat Sued Over Hibernate 3 ORM Patent Infringement Claim
    Posted by Floyd Marinescu on jun 29, 2006 09:40 PM

    Community Java Topics Legal Matters, Data Access, Business
    Firestar Software has filed a patent claim against Red Hat for infringing on a patent Firestar filed in 2000 covering O/R mapping. The amount of the lawsuit was not disclosed. The complaint centers around JBoss 3, and the patent claims that JBoss was given prior notice that marketing, distribution, and support services violates Firestars patent, and that Firestar "has suffered and will continue to suffer substantial damages." Firestar produces the ObjectSpark, an transactional object mapping engine which appears to not have had a new release since May 2003, according to the Firestars press release page.

    The patent covers (from US Patent office patent # 6,101,502):
    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. ide interface objects that are utilized by an object oriented software application to access the relational database.
    Interestingly, the same patent (follow link for full PDFs) was filed under a different company name to the European patent office back in 1998, but was withdrawn. The patent is not related to yet another patent Mapping architecture for arbitrary data models filed in 2005.

    Patent experts told InfoQ that the lawsuit appears to be skillful manoeuvring on Firestar's part; they waited until after the JBoss Red Hat acquisition intentions were announced and notified JBoss about the potential infringement on May 26th, which was within the JBoss Red Hat due dilligence period. This would have required JBoss to either instantly settle with Firestar or be forced to notify Red Hat which could have cancelled the acquisition deal, which was announced as finalized on June 5th (with Red Hat aware of the risks). Firestar then notified Red Hat on June 7th that they were in violation of Firestar's patent. As a further example of manoeuvring, the word among patent experts is that the specific district Firestar selected to perform the lawsuit in (eastern district of Texas) is famous among patent circles because a patent claimant has never lost a lawsuit there.

    It seems clear that the timing of the lawsuit was designed to take advantage of the Red Hat acquisition. Firestar certainly had other potential targets, including Oracle (TopLink), BEA (Kodo), and even the JCP (EJB JPA).

    Note: updated June 29th, 10:40pm
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 30, 2006 @07:46AM (#15635216)
    Continue allowing these suits to be brought before the court. However, if the plaintiff loses on the basis of an invalid patent, he/she will receive 100 lashes with wet bamboo strips -- the plaintiff's attorneys as well.
  • Blah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ms1234 (211056) on Friday June 30, 2006 @07:54AM (#15635246)
    So they're not doing that well and need cash?
    • The #1 customer listed on their site is S.W.I.F.T.; that dog's going away soon.
    • Re:Blah (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DRM_is_Stupid (954094)
      I know it's technically correct according to business jargon, but they say they're "suffering losses" - as if it's their God given right to have an artificial monopoly.
      • Re:Blah (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ThosLives (686517) on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:35AM (#15635425) Journal
        What's really interesting is that if I open a restaraunt, and a guy next door opens a restaraunt, and people like the food and/or service of the guy next door better, my restaraunt will "suffer losses."

        I do not think that "suffering losses" means what people think it means...

  • by freemywrld (821105) on Friday June 30, 2006 @07:55AM (#15635248) Homepage
    What we really need here is a proverbial SPAM filter on lawsuits for things like this. It is no wonder that people and/or companies with valid claims tend to hesitate to take their claims to court, knowing that this kind of hogwash is bogging down the system.
    Seems like Firestar's time could be better spent actually developing something new, instead of sitting around waiting for an excuse to sue in order to generate some cashflow.
  • TFA seems confused (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Brian Blessed (258910) on Friday June 30, 2006 @07:55AM (#15635251)
    It says:
    The complaint centers around JBoss 3

    JBoss 3 was released in May 2002.
    However, Hibernate wasn't a JBoss project until September 2003.

    I'd guess that the claim relates to Hibernate 3, but they are desperate to mention JBoss as much as possible for the FUD value.
    • Hibernate doesn't have a cash-heavy owner the way JBoss (now) does. Its one of the curses of selling an OpenSource product to a commercial enterpris: instead of a random batch of flat-broke hackers and hobbiests not worth a dime, you can sue a big company for a permanent take of their revenue. If you win, your stock-holders will love you forever.

      Of course, the history and obviousness of ORM is so out there (every C++ magazine in the 90s talked about the concept) that this patent should never have been gra
  • by Corrado (64013) <rnhurt@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday June 30, 2006 @07:55AM (#15635252) Homepage Journal
    This is really low - wait until your software gets in heavy rotation and then go after people using it. My question is why did they go after RedHat/JBoss? Why not go after the big dogs; Oracle (TopLink), BEA (Kodo), and even the JCP (EJB JPA)?

    Again, software patents are a bad idea.
    • There should definitely be a clause that in order to retain your patent you have to challenge any infringements as soon as you are aware of them, not just wait until the infringement has gone on long enough to really cash in.

      I believe that this sort of thing is written into law in various places, especially civil law (eg adverse possession).

      The only problem would be the 'as soon as you are aware of them' bit...
      • I believe there is a similar provision in US law these days. While you do not lose the patent, you can no longer claim damages that occurred between discovering the infringement and starting legal action.
        • I believe there is a similar provision in US law these days. While you do not lose the patent, you can no longer claim damages that occurred between discovering the infringement and starting legal action.

          It's called the "equitable doctrine of laches". If the defendant can show that the delay between the time the plaintiff became aware of the infringement and the time they filed suit to halt the infringement resulted in material harm to the defendant, then royalties/damages can only be assessed going f

    • To set the groundwork for a lawsuit against a larger company. If they sue a smaller company that is less able to defend itself then they've created a great foothold to move forward with a suit against the big boys.
  • by jkrise (535370) on Friday June 30, 2006 @07:58AM (#15635261) Journal
    1. JBoss gains widespread acceptance, and threatens Sun's Java model, dominance.
    2. Despite Sun introducing new enhancements, developers are switching to the JBoss architecture and portal in droves.
    3. RedHat acquires JBoss, gets sued, and loses - 'tainting' JBoss in the process.
    4. Sun wins - one big competitor tainted and gone.... MS wins - open source apps around JBoss fall away.
    Sound plausible?
    • by powerpointmonkey (840630) on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:13AM (#15635317) Homepage
      Last time I looked at Jboss, it was written in Java, and as such is helping to Spread Sun's dominance.

      Unles of course you meant to say Sun's application server / portal server dominance, in which case, please excuse me while I fall of my chair laughing. - Neither products are going anywhere.

      Jboss is not a competitor to Sun. IBM and BEA maybe, but not Sun.
    • How on earth is JBoss a competitor of Sun?? JBoss is a flagship of the Java community and has certainly helped cement Java's position as an enterprise platform.
      • How on earth is JBoss a competitor of Sun??

        Hibernate. One of Sun's things they have pushed revision after revision is a bit of nastiness called entity beans. Tried once, got marginally better with the 2.x release, and are about to try for a third time with EE 5 and the EJB 3 spec. Hibernate just works - and many of the folks I know are more than happy to skip out on the EJB to Database bits from Sun. While Jboss is a J2EE server (and a good one at that) they were driving the industry more than Sun was on
  • by Corrado (64013) <rnhurt@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:03AM (#15635278) Homepage Journal
    Just took a quick read of the patent and it looks like this is a pretty wide reaching patent. Anything that maps a database to an object is covered by this one. Does this mean Ruby on Rails is under the gun? Of course, they have no money (I guess) so they wouldn't be a target. But they would still be violating a patent and that could limit their future growth potential.
    • Anything that maps a database to an object is covered by this one.

      It's a specific method, but it's a pretty widely-used one nowadays, yes.

      Does this mean Ruby on Rails is under the gun?

      I would assume so. I think SQLObject for Python would be a possible target too.

      Important to note (as you do) that Hibernate et al are far more profitable targets here though.

  • by plasmacutter (901737) on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:04AM (#15635283)
    We need reforms which basically state that if you choose to enforce your patents selectively then you should lose them.

    You either license to everyone you intend to allow use of your patent or you lose it.. you should not be allowed to hide in wait and opportunistically/arbitrarily ambush companies and developers.

    This should especially apply to companies who apply for patents, then sit on them while other companies do the work, only to sue them and take all their credit and revenue.

    That's not capitalist.. it's parasitic.
    • You either license to everyone you intend to allow use of your patent or you lose it.. you should not be allowed to hide in wait and opportunistically/arbitrarily ambush companies and developers.

      That would be disasterous. You forget to account for the number of companies who do real work and hold patents for MAD purposes. Give those companies lawyer's a choice between "enforcement" and "losing the patent", and a significant proportion of them will choose "enforcement".
      • That would be disasterous. You forget to account for the number of companies who do real work and hold patents for MAD purposes. Give those companies lawyer's a choice between "enforcement" and "losing the patent", and a significant proportion of them will choose "enforcement".

        Maybe that's just what the world needs - a good kick in the nuts to show just how out of control the various IP laws have gotten. It won't get better gradually; it has gotten worse step by step. We need a diasaster to show just ho

      • Give those companies lawyer's a choice between "enforcement" and "losing the patent", and a significant proportion of them will choose "enforcement".

        Apparently, nothing short of actually attempting to implement such a 'modest proposal' will get IP laws fixed. Perhaps exactly what we need is a total all out suitfest where every IP owner in the U.S. sues every last person for everything. Perhaps when the courts realize that the only ways available to track that many suits at once and schedule the trials (

  • by lowieken (522530) on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:09AM (#15635301) Homepage
    Firestarter Software is probably not doing very well. Why else would they launch a software patent lawsuit? On top of that, they have actual products in the market. Seems to me that this makes them very vulnerable to countersuits.

    Am I right thinking it shouldn't be too difficult to sue Firestarter Software into oblivion?

    • Am I right thinking it shouldn't be too difficult to sue Firestarter Software into oblivion?

      I counter your "mapping an object model to a relational database" patent with my "mapping a relational database to a magnetic disk" patent of +3 vorpal.

      • I counter your "mapping an object model to a relational database" patent with my "mapping a relational database to a magnetic disk" patent of +3 vorpal.

        I push your magnetic disk patent aside with my patent of producing ferrous solid metal known as "iron" by combining nucleii of light elements into increasingly heavy ones until reaching iron, and distributing said products into the universe once production is finished.

        Furthermore, I claim a patent on the concept of "greater than zero", which your "+3 v

  • Prior Art? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Phil John (576633) <phil@webstars l t d .com> on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:10AM (#15635302)

    Surely there's a wealth or prior art for this kind of thing, ORM was popular before 2000. What about Next Computer's Enterprise Objects Framework [wikipedia.org]? That's been around since at least 1994 according to WikiPedia - it still lives on as part of Apple's WebObjects system.

    • There were a lot of them.

      Its a shame its going to cost RedHat a pile of money to prove it, though.
      • I think their plan might be to bluff RedHat into settling, then use that as precedent for further cases (ie. bluff other companies into settling, as well). While RedHat could easily call the bluff, if it's more expensive than just giving Firestar money certain execs might decide that giving in would be the better decision, because this quarter's figures will be slightly better. I mean, we all know that execs operate on a rather exotic kind of logic. Firestar might really think they'll get away with suing pe
        • SCO thought they'd get away with shaking IBM down using similar tactics. The large and obvious hole in this theory is that company execs know giving in to one troll results in hundreds of others appearing from under their bridges, and no company can pay all of them off and survive. It's better therefore to fight the first one even if you lose (assuming of course that you have the resources to do so, and Red Hat does) than be seen as a soft target by all of them.
    • Re:Prior Art? (Score:4, Informative)

      by MemoryDragon (544441) on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:34AM (#15635416)
      Toplink also has been there fore ages (92 or 93), the patent is not worth the toilet paper it was written on, and as usual the USPTO has proven not to have any knowledge of the fields it grants patents on.
    • by Jimithing DMB (29796) <dfe AT tgwbd DOT org> on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:47AM (#15635766) Homepage

      Enterprise Objects certainly implements everything described by that patent and a bit more because it provides a data access controller layer (not just a data model layer). Not to mention I've had some limited experience viewing someone else's hibernate-based code. EO/WO is so much better than Hibernate can ever hope to be.

  • by mikeburke (683778) on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:13AM (#15635319)
    ...Economics.
  • Ohm, Prior art? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sweetshark (696449) on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:20AM (#15635356)
    All these projects have been registered before or in 2000 (when the patent has been filed according to TFA):
    http://sourceforge.net/projects/jgrinder [sourceforge.net]
    http://sourceforge.net/projects/leap [sourceforge.net]
    http://sourceforge.net/projects/neo [sourceforge.net]
    http://sourceforge.net/projects/nexusproject [sourceforge.net]

    As this is a patent it shouldnt matter too much, if they actually had a working implementation at that time. (IANAL and all that jazz).
  • by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:24AM (#15635373) Homepage
    Relocate to Europe where we don't have this patent lunacy[**]. These patent trolls would then be limited to trying to steal the USA turnover of Red Hat; Red Hat could perhaps take the option of abandoning the USA market. If Red Hat were to leave the USA it would send a strong message to congress how patents damage the USA economy ... they might even decide that doing right by their country is preferable to accepting the slush funds from the patent lobbyists.

    They have some nice offices here, no language problems for existing staff if they move to Guildford (UK).

    [**] - OK -- I know that some are trying to introduce it, but the EU seems to not be that stupid (fingers crossed)

  • by gvc (167165) on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:26AM (#15635383)
    Recall that RIM was forced to settle to the tune of half-a-billion dollars even though the patents were in the process of being successfully challenged. I don't know if the settlement involved dropping the challenge, too.

    I have read the patent and in my opinion it does not describe a method at all. It is just an example, with a few diagrams, of how a mapping might be done. There are thousands of academic papers that describe systematic ways of doing this, and lots of products, too.

    So what exactly does this patent cover? A for instance of how to map the "name" method of an object into a "name" column in a table?

    It is laughable that this patent was granted; however, I doubt Red Hat share the laughter.
    • Recall that RIM was forced to settle to the tune of half-a-billion dollars even though the patents were in the process of being successfully challenged.
      I vote that we call this sort of bottom feeding patent extortion scam RIMMING.
    • Recall that RIM was forced to settle to the tune of half-a-billion dollars even though the patents were in the process of being successfully challenged. I don't know if the settlement involved dropping the challenge, too.

      Ah yes, but RIM executives chickened out just weeks before the Supreme Court issued a ruling that would have turned that situation completely around. The lower courts have now been officially told that their policy of always assume the patent is valid and always issue an injunction if requ
  • Prior Art, 10 times over. No case. Thank you. Next.
  • Prior Art (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bbroerman (715822) on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:40AM (#15635446) Homepage
    At my company, we wrote software that basically does the same thing back in the late 80's - early 90's and have been using it for high-profile, high-cost software ever since... While I don't know if we ever applied for a patent on the idea, I would bet that there is a lot of prior art out there... I just hope that Red Hat's lawyers are good enough to find it and use it appropriately.
    • Prior art is only prior art if it is published (i.e., specifically, the techniques made public), the way I understand it.

      So even having had the code, unless the techniques were actually made public, this one wouldn't count.

      One of the things about the patent system, is that encourages you to not sit on your findings.

      Not that I'd call any of this process/method patent shit a "finding," mind you, but be that as it may....

      C//
      • Prior art doesn't have to be published to invalidate a patent, it only has to be used "in public". That is, if you invent something (say, a novel engine in a car), and you use the invention in public, you can lose the right to patent it a year later even if you haven't revealed the details. A technique used in a program, or even a server, that can be used by people other than the inventors (e.g. people who haven't signed an NDA) can be used as prior art, even if the code implementing the technique is neve

        • That is, if you invent something (say, a novel engine in a car), and you use the invention in public, you can lose the right to patent it a year later even if you haven't revealed the details.

          YOU can. However, I have misgivings about whether or not a third party trade secret, used in the public manufacture of a product, having kept methods and techniques essentially unknown to the public, can be used in this way.

          C//

          • It is still "prior art", regardless of who used or disclosed it. The inventor gets a year after such disclosure to patent it. Anyone else would have to prove that they invented it first, and in any case lose the ability to patent it after the year is up, even if they did come up with it first.

    • While I don't know if we ever applied for a patent on the idea, I would bet that there is a lot of prior art out there... I just hope that Red Hat's lawyers are good enough to find it and use it appropriately.

      Easy. Dozens, if not hundreds, of published examples should be here [acm.org]. I didn't even bother to log in and search, because it's an area of interest of mine, and I know I've read lots of research articles about it, going back well into the 90's and I believe probably even to the late 80's. The patent s
  • smalltalk (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 30, 2006 @08:49AM (#15635476)
    Smalltalk at an OR/M mapping engine from about 1994. I think I'm right in saying it was subsequently acquired by Oracle, ported to Java and became know as Toplink. In any case it's a pretty clear-cut prior art so the patent won't stand if anyone wants to defend it.
  • Would someone kindly translate the FP's title for those of us not intimate (in the Biblical sense) with Java's current political environment?
  • by defile (1059) on Friday June 30, 2006 @09:15AM (#15635577) Homepage Journal
    We too have suffered and will continue to suffer substantial damages due to Hibernate.
  • Did the company change its name or something? Here is a 5 year old article discussing a product by a company called Ontos Inc. The product is called Object Spark. I'm seeing version 4 in 2001. How old is this suite? http://www.intelligententerprise.com/010507/produ c ts1_1.jhtml [intelligen...rprise.com]

    It is also interesting to see the product is designed to work on Windows.

    ObjectSpark data components can be deployed on any Microsoft Transaction Server (MTS) or COM+ server. ObjectSpark was originally designed for developers build

  • Fresh patents.com link [freshpatents.com]

    Not only that, Objectspark is one of the most expensive o/r mappers on the planet. It comes at a price of at least $20,000 (twenty thousand dollars) a pop.

    Add to that that TopLink is at least 10 years old, we can safely say, Firestar is trying but is doing that in the wrong area: they should simply lower their prices and increase their value for money.

    Their .NET product has failed, and I'm pretty sure their Java product isn't doing that well either, considering alternatives which cost
  • Too Obvious (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Hoolala (976766)
    ORM is not rocket science. Practically all the possible techniques/strategies are well-known. If this patent is not overturned, ORM vendors will be in trouble and so will any software (written in an OO language) that persists data/state in a database.
  • NeXT released Enterprise Objects Foundation (EOF) in 1994 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enterprise_Objects_F ramework [wikipedia.org]), and the patent summary doesn't mention any features EOF didn't have.
    Isn't this prior art?
  • I'm pretty sure object-relational mapping has been around since long before 2000 though, if that's what the patent is about.
  • by 955301 (209856) on Friday June 30, 2006 @10:56AM (#15636252) Journal
    Thank you for reading that wonderful article everyone. You may now reach Firestars public relations department at the following email address:

    "Media Contact
    Contact our public relations group to inquire about press information, to arrange interviews, to receive company information or bios of key personnel, and to request media/press kits.
    pr@firestarsoftware.com"

    Sales and Marketing and partnerships seem to be the same fool:
    Rob McGowan
    SVP, Sales and Marketing
    FireStar Software, Inc.
    Phone: (201) 784-3894, (201) 522-7788
    E-mail: McGowan@firestarsoftware.com

    Have fun, be creative!
  • by Bob9113 (14996) on Friday June 30, 2006 @11:02AM (#15636305) Homepage
    6. The method of claim 1 further including the step of mapping class inheritance to rows within a table.

    Clearly the person writing the patent doesn't understand object oriented programming or databases. Row 2 extends row 1? I think not (except maybe as a lab experiment proving it's possible).

    And as an aside, I have violated this patent. Twice. A friend of mine working on the same project was violating it at the same time. Then we hired a third guy who violated it again. Yes, we have a project which contains four, count 'em, four, independently developed O-R mapping tools. Three of them (one of mine and the two others) were developed not knowing the others existed. Then someone recommended TopLink, which we chose not to use. Then a friend of mine showed me WebObjects, which we chose not to use. Then we hired a guy who told us about Hibernate, which we now use. WebObjects started as a NeXT project in the mid 90's. TopLink is older than the patent (I think). Our independent implementations were done without knowing about any of the existing tools or the patent, and before (I admit with some shame) we were aware of Scott Ambler's outstanding research on the subject (which dates back to 1998).

    Summary judgement to the defendant, obvious and not novel.
    • Row 2 extends row 1? I think not (except maybe as a lab experiment proving it's possible).

      I suppose it could depend on what you mean by "extend" in an object oriented manner. If you have a table in a database that has an ID key field, as well as a ParentID field for each row - then row 2 could be easily parented to row 1, thus in a manner "extending" row 1's set of data. Depending on how the table was set up, such a system can easily be made to work in an object oriented manner (though it isn't pretty, and

      • Very agreed - trees are good. Parent/child relationships are not, as you note, extension. There are trees with node types that extend other node types (or node types that extend a base type).

        And you can represent them in a database by having discriminator fields (as pointed out in another response). And if you were doing a tree that contained a variety of node types, it might make some amount of sense to use discriminators. But I would contend that discriminator fields cost more than they pay, much like mul
  • IV and their ilk really disgust me. I've been using Hibernate for over a year and I admire their hard work and amazing code. I've been able to architect something and build it a) cheaply and b) timely. Thanks to Hibernate. Then some jerkoffs come along and try to reclaim success they never had. I'm wondering how the plaintiffs and their lawyers can sleep at night, knowing they're pond scum and haven't contributed anything to this world except for crybaby litigation. We should let the plaintiffs know how low

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