Is Microsoft attempting to patent CMDB?
A recent patent application appears to indicate that Microsoft is applying to patent CMDB. This issue is not attracting the outrage that it ought to. Next time you see your Microsoft rep, ask him/her WTF they are up to. And if you get anything like a rational answer, post it here so we can all understand.
I find this so hard to believe that I am putting it out there for you readers to help confirm or deny. Perhaps I should find it easy to accept given Microsoft’s history in the patent arena.
A reader drew my attention to a recent patent application (20060004875) for “CMDB schema” by Anthony Baron and others. The assignee for the patent is Microsoft, their employer.
The same guys are responsible for attempting to patent (20060080656) patch management on behalf of Microsoft too.
And finally, as far as I can discern through the blizzard of legalese, Microsoft (via Baron and others) are also busily attempting to patent (20060064486) the ITIL ICT Operations book or normal ICT operations with a standard Deming cycle. Just amazing.
If Microsoft gets sick of being called the source of all evil, they should stop behaving like it. [Of course Microsoft are not the only ones playing these silly games. Take a look what BMC are up to ].
Reading these patent applications, they look to me to be vexatious and disingenuous. They are worded so as to seem a precise and complicated definition to one not understanding the details of the subject, but are in fact pretty broad ambit claims.
The patch management one sounds to me like every patch or software install packaging mechanism I ever saw, but let’s focus on the CMDB one.
Once again it is hidden in complex wording but the claim seems pretty simple. They are patenting:
- the idea that the CIs are in one table and their attributes are in another: sounds like every implementation of an object model in a relational database to me
- the idea that relationships are in a separate table to the CIs: when I started out, we called this “third normal form” and it was pretty standard database design. Apparently now it is a radically new concept deserving of patent
- the idea that another table stores “a default list of approvers for changes”: this is less clear but it sounds to me like they want to patent aspects of ordinary change workflow
- the idea that another table stores “dependencies between requested changes”: likewise more opaque but sounds like normal release management
Now I am not a lawyer [said with pride] but this sounds like any CMDB schema that stores data in multiple tables according to normal object-to-relational and relational-normalisation principles is infringing patent, as is any change workflow that assigns default approvers or release tool that stores change dependencies.
Remember you read it here first that Mickeysoft are ideally placed to “invade Poland”: they could blitzkrieg in and take ISO20000 and ITIL out in one fell swoop simply by upgrading the MOF documentation to ISO20000 and doing a deal with itSMF USA to back it. They don’t have to make it open content. ITIL isn’t open content. Microsoft can keep a MOF documentation of ISO20000 practices as locked up as OGC does ITIL. Having a patent on CMDB wouldn’t hurt. It would be like France having already surrendered. And they already have MOF gaining ground, which is akin to having the king of your main opponent on your side.
One would hope that “prior art” will kill all this nonsense stone dead, but the US patent system is in such a parlous state (mostly by allowing patents on methods, but more generally by the meddling of the US’s prime pestilence: lawyers) that anything could happen.
My best-case hope is that Microsoft employees get bonused on patent applications and these guys are just busy “writing themselves a Winnebago”*, but I doubt it.
Help me out here readers: have I interpreted this correctly? What is the current status of these claims? And what is the prognosis?
*from a Dilbert comic (before I hear from Scott’s lawyers)