IBM CEP Patent Application 20070118545 – Visible May 24, 2007

Posted by Tim Bass

IBM filed (corrected earlier patent application status error) a CEP patent, 20070118545, on November 21st, 2005, now viewable by the public on May 24th, 2007, titled, Dynamic business process integration using complex event processing. The patent abstract states:

An enterprise application integration broker for managing a number of applications. The enterprise application integration broker includes a complex event processing engine. The complex event processing engine is adapted to monitor and analyze a first set of events in at least one of the plurality of applications. In addition, the enterprise application integration broker includes an integration engine. The integration engine is connected to the complex event processing engine and is connected to each of the applications. The integration engine is adapted to cause at least one application to react to a first set of events occurring in one or more of the plurality of applications. The integration engine is further adapted to cause at least one application to react to a second set of events generated by the complex event processing engine. The second set of events is correlated with the first set of events.

Not being an expert on US patent law, I don’t understand how IBM could be granted a patent for an EAI technology that was documented openly in the academic literature a number of years ago, and has since been implemented by numerous commercial companies.

How does this new patent effect the emerging CEP market?

PS: A special word of thanks to Brian Connell of WestGlobal for pointing out the correct status of this CEP patent application!. Thanks Brian!


6 Responses to IBM CEP Patent Application 20070118545 – Visible May 24, 2007

  1. Brian says:

    Tim, this is a patent application – it has not been granted (yet). It’ll probably take till 2010 before it makes it to the “grant” stage. It does appear to be very general, and claim 1 appears to describe a method outlined by David Luckham’s book, so prior art might cause problems for this application.

    Either way, the examiners will decide….and the lawyers will profit 🙂

  2. timbass says:

    Hi Brian!

    I thought the application was filed in 2005, i.e from the site, “Filed: November 21, 2005”. So what happened on May 24th?

    Yours faithfully, Tim

  3. timbass says:

    Hi Brian,

    I did some homework on the USPTO site and found that there can be a (normal) 18 month time lag between when a patent application is received by USPTO and when it becomes visable to the public. The May 24th 2007 date seems to be the date the patent application transitions to a new state that is visible to the public.

    Thanks for your comment!

    Yours sincerely, Tim

  4. Marco says:

    IBM has many more patents in this area. I have seen patents on Amit for example. Apama and Microsoft has also filed (and been granted) some, imho equally silly, patents.

  5. peter lin says:

    These days it generally takes 2-3 years for the initial response from the USPTO. Back in 2000, the average time from original filing to final rejection/granted patent was 3-4 years. Now it’s closer to 5 years, so 2010 sounds about right.

    IBM is known to patent everything, so even if this patent gets rejected, IBM already has a huge pool of patents in the event arena. for example, IBM has a few patents on RETE algorithm, which are bogus, but they have it. There’s a ton of bogus patents in IBM’s portfolio, but they don’t care. It’s a business tool for them, so they will exercise their portfolio. Eventually, businesses in the CEP/ESP space will have to cross license with IBM, otherwise they will loose the legal battle. It’s not pretty, just the ugly reality.

  6. The trouble here is that many (most?) software companies, and especially those with large R&D spends like IBM and MS, are trying to protect themselves as best they can against the inevitable consequences of granting software patents – the status of which the US courts have never been able to clarify or agree. It’s a mess, and most of the larger commercial software companies have long since concluded that the only viable option they have is to try to patent everything that moves in the hopes that they can at least use their patents to deter other companies from filing infringement suits, and even use them (as regularly happens) as a kind of tradable commodity when establishing what amounts to non-aggression pacts (patent cross-licensing).

    This patent may well not be granted. It almost certainly should not be, but so many US software patents are clearly bogus. If it is, its worth, legally, will be highly dubious. However, because US courts have such difficulties over software patents, and because their decisions can be unpredictable, it may still have worth to IBM as a deterrent against patent aggression. That’s how the system ‘works’. It would have been so much better if the US had decided (like much of the rest of the world) to refuse to grant software patents. As Bill Gates pointed out years ago, if the current US approach to software patenting had been adopted in earlier decades, the whole industry would long since have ground to a halt. It’s the courts and the legislature in the US who are to blame for this.

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