Hibernate 3 ORM Patent Infringment Claim against Red Hat

by Tim O'Brien

Firestar Software claims that Hibernate infringes on US Patent 6,101,502. Read more about this case at InfoQ.com. Could this could be the start of a series of rulings that could have a chilling effect on open source? I certainly hope not.... but, it is certainly possible....

Please use the comment thread to list all the known examples of prior art that come to mind.


Caitlyn Martin
2006-07-01 15:07:07
Software that hasn't been developed for three years. Hmmm...

I have a one word reply to this: SCO. A claim is one thing, winning in court is another. I don't see a "chilling effect" on OpenSource. I see an attempt to cash in which may or may not work but likely will have little or no long term consequences.

Tim O'Brien
2006-07-01 15:20:13
Caitlyn, don't be so quick to compare Firestar to SCO. For one, we have to just admit that there are companies that have legitimate IP interests. Even though the majority of us believe that software patents are not a good idea, it really is going to be up to the judicial branch to make that decision.

Here's the paragraph from InfoQ that should have you paying attention: "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." This tells me that we may be looking at an almost automatic judgement from the Eastern district of Texas, and then a lengthy appeal process by Red Hat.

"Software that hasn't been developed for three years...." Again, not a relevant criticism in terms of patent law. I can point to any number of open source projects that haven't seen a significant level of development of innovation over a three year period.

The only thing of relevance here is the infringement claim, and if the judicial system finds that that claim has merit, I just don't see how anyone paying attention won't be considering what other patents are going to affect open source.

Not only is it possible, I think this might only be the beginning.

Jesse Barnum
2006-07-01 21:52:38
I have a hard time believing that this patent is breaking new ground. For instance, Apple's WebObjects Framework has an embedded object mapping system called Enterprise Objects Foundation that has been around since at least the early 1990's. This patent is dated 1998.
Tim O'Brien
2006-07-01 22:49:44
Jesse, if it were only that simple. It looks like the patent specifically addresses code generation and lazy loading through proxy model objects. I'd be surprised if the WebObjects Framework had this level of complexity back in 1990.
2006-07-02 01:54:07
Tim It sure did it even had a graphical editor. You must never underestimate how far ahead of its time Next was.
2006-07-02 06:14:19
And how about gemstone/s of 1987 a smalltalk database? Is that prior art for using proxies and lazy loading?
Tim O'Brien
2006-07-02 06:37:36
Yes, GemStone was an Object Database, that's great. But, the patent isn't on Object Databases, the patent is on a specific approach to mapping an object model to a relational database using stubs and generated binaries. While the patent mentions generated DLLs, something like Hibernate uses cglib. Did either WebObjects or GemStone generate binaries similar to the way that Hibernate does? Or, did they simply provide a runtime engine that translated calls to model interfaces?
2006-07-02 08:58:45
I am very sure that EOF used stubs because ProxyObjects are very common in objective-c and smalltalk programming . I think that they probably did not have to use code generation
Tim O'Brien
2006-07-02 09:16:56
Alright so to the substance of the patent in question - if you read it - you'll note that it covers an ORM tool that using code generation - in the case of the patent it is a "DLL", in the case of Hibernate it is code generated via cglib. I think this is going to be the specific claim of infringement.
2006-07-02 09:37:49
But code-generation is a very difficult thing to define exact just look at functional language's like lisp or smalltalk. but that is probably splitting hairs;-)
peter harrison
2006-07-02 15:13:12
Regardless of the legalaity of thise case the moral question has to be asked: If you develop something totally independently, develop the concepts yourself, and develop the actual implementation, how can some other entity claim that what you have done is "their property" just because they thought of something similar first?

If anything the greater wrong here is for somebody with an "idea" to claim rights to something that someone else put blood sweat and tears into. Its outright theft. Now if we were talking about RSA, and you are using an idea somebody else had published - and you had read, thats another story.

The problem here is that there is no defence based on indepentent discovery or invenmtion. It seems that the first time anyone hears about a patent is when the suit comes. This hardly encourages innovation, in in the case of Hibernate it is crippling innovation.

Wyatt williams
2006-07-07 09:02:23
I use red hat for a long time...
2006-08-24 08:27:15
Caitlyn Marie Martin may know Linux, but she doesn't know anything about reality. When you take peoples money (at least 7 people, maybe more), and don't provide the product that you promised them, then the reality is that the scammed victims get pissed. Then the victims file complaints with the police and file mail fraud charges with the Postal Service. That's big time felony stuff !! Caitlyn claims to be a victim of identify theft. That may be true if she has an evil twin sister that lives in the same house as she does. That may be true if USPS Money Orders were sent somewhere other than her present home address in Little Suamico, WI. That may be true if she responded to the victim's emails and explained her situation. That may be true if she could produce proof of shipment on any of the items. That may be true if she weren't hiding and not answering the door. The reality is, she can't explain any of these things. The reality is, you got caught, Caity. Now, refund the money before you get a real dose of reality !!!
Bob Koury
2006-10-06 09:47:18
In June, 2006, I bought JBOSS at Work, worked through examples, had everything working fine. In Oct. 2006, I update my Redhat server with Redhat updates. Now hibernate is broken. Does anyone know if this relates to this patent claim?
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2006-10-12 01:56:53


2007-12-08 13:22:52
Well this is what software patents are- a value destroying mechanism which destroys innovation and the advancement of society and transforms what would have otherwise been economic benefit into cocaine which is then snorted up the noses of greasy-haired, slime-bag patent lawyers and their trophy wives in their 500k McMansions.

Hey, what is society FOR if not to service the wants and desires of it's most able members.