If you are an Oracle professional charged with
ensuring that your shop has adequate licenses for your Oracle databases
and tools, take heed. Recent court lawsuits suggest that your brand-new
eCommerce site might have to pay royalties if your application uses
intuitive features such as
?one click? and ?secure credit card verification?.
Yes, these are patented technologies. The
?bargain? option of using powerful Oracle tools such as APEX and
create a custom shopping cart may evaporate quickly when you add-on the
royalties that you must pay a patent holders.
Current lawsuits may open a floodgate of lawsuits
against those who infringe on patents when using Oracle to build custom
Oracle RAD tools foster customized applications
All Oracle managers face the ?build? vs. ?Buy?
decision. Is it cheaper to buy an eCommerce product and strap-it-onto
Oracle, or is it better to develop a customized solution using Oracle
Oracle offers a host of super-powerful tools for
custom eCommerce database, and the toolset within Oracle is consider the
finest in the application developer arena. These tools are the de-facto
standard for online Oracle databases because of their robust features
and easy-to-use interfaces with Oracle:
- Oracle Application Server 10g
- Oracle JDeveloper
- Oracle APEX
These tools provide a complete do-it-yourself
environment where Oracle professionals can online Oracle systems that
employ the sophisticated eCommerce features that are demanded by today?s
- One-click checkout
- Name your own price
- ?Real Name? consumer feedback
Because of the Rapid Application Development (RAD)
functionality within these Oracle web developer tools, many Oracle shops
choose to ?build?, rather then ?buy? eCommerce their components. For
example, Tony Jedlinski, an IOUG volunteer notes that the shopping cart
for his corporation, Roman, Inc, chose to write their own shopping cart
in APEX and it only took a few days.
Let?s take a closer look and see how you can
protect your Oracle database from patent lawsuits and pay royalties to
the owners of any inventions that you inadvertently employed in your
Is your Oracle system at-risk?
More and more, Oracle shops are recognizing that
their ?competitive advantage? in eCommerce relies on their end-user
interfaces, and they are choosing to write customized eCommerce
applications for payment processing, customer management and shopping
carts with sophisticated ?recommendation engines? that suggest purchases
based on the purchases of other ?similar? customers.
The OracleAS ?Personalization engine? is one such
application of customized functionality, and we assume that the
?recommendation engine? (Customers who bought ?xxx? also liked ?yyy?),
is a generic, non-patentable concept.
Not so, according to Cendant, a company that purchased some
extremely valuable eCommerce patents:
Cendant Publishing, a
division of the multinational giant Cendant Corp. (another e-commerce
pioneer) claimed Amazon.com's method of offering online book buyers
recommendations of books violates its patent.
Wow, that scary stuff to the Oracle developer who
just spent six-months writing a state-of-the-art engine using Oracle
personalization and recommendation technology.
Here we see that Amazon holds some very important
patents for electronic e-commerce and they are counter-suing Cendant,
hurling their own barrage of patented technologies. The
article below notes that Amazon is enforcing patents on some
integral components of e-commerce, implying that Amazon may be entitled
to royalties from anyone who creates e-commerce software that uses ?tools
to secure credit-card transactions, handle customer referrals and manage
Cendant, the biggest
U.S. provider of travel and real-estate services, knew "or should have
known" it infringed when using the tools to secure credit-card
transactions, handle customer referrals and manage data, according
to the lawsuit filed June 22 in federal court in Seattle.
The History of the Valuable Patent
U.S. Patent No. 6,782,370 is for "a
computer-implemented method and system utilizing a distributed network
for the recommendation of goods and/or services to potential costumers
based on a potential customer's selection of goods and/or services and a
database of previous customer purchasing history."
This important, general patent has a long history
- 1987 ? Original patent filed by Open
- 2001 ? Open Source goes bankrupt and
purchased by Andy Filipowski?s Divine Inc.
- 2004 ? Cendant buys patents from Divine
and sues Amazon for infringement
Remember Andy Filipowski?
Andy, ?Flip? Filipowski has been a database vendor
since the 1970?s and a major purveyor of Oracle development tools.
During the pre-Oracle days of network databases (Cullinet?s IDMS/R
database) Flip wounded DBMS Inc, a company dedicated to providing tools
for database management.
Back when Oracle was just a gleam in Larry
Ellison?s eye, (circa 1987), Flip founded Platinum Technology, a major
player in the 3rd party Oracle tools market, including Oracle
tools such as Platinum Plan Analyzer and the Platinum Repository.
Platinum was acquitted by Computer Associates in 1999.
World?s largest Oracle eCommerce shop lands in court
Amazon, one of the world?s largest and
most-sophisticated Oracle RAC shops, has a reputation as a leader in
electronic e-commerce, most-recently instituting a ?real person?
book-review option that correlates the reviewer?s name with the credit
card on their Amazon account. This has been lionized as a long-overdue
verifying the credibility of those who express opinions in
In an article from
www.chillingeffects.org titled ?E-Commerce
Patents?, the authors claim that Amazon holds the patent to the ?one
click technology? an easy-to-use checkout method that mirrors the goals
of every e-commerce system on earth:
An example of a famous
e-commerce patent is U.S. patent number 5,960,411, for Amazon.com's
"one-click" technology, which describes a method of allowing an online
customer to order a product instantly by clicking a single button.
Reaction to this patent's issuance was swift and largely negative. Read
Amazon.com sued its primary
competitor, Barnesandnoble.com, for patent infringement. Although
Amazon.com obtained a preliminary injunction from a federal district
an appellate court reversed, and the parties settled before trial.
CNET has an article titled ?Are
e commerce patents patently absurd??, where we see that companies
www.priceline.com (owner of the ?name your own price? model, a
patented technology), and
Open Market, the holder of a super-broad patent on integral parts of
any e-commerce system which secured a patent on ?
That includes software to implement the emerging Secure Electronic
Transactions (SET) protocol for Internet credit card purchases, other
forms of instant Internet payments, including sending a credit card
number over the Internet using Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption,
any application that uses a "shopping card" to collect multiple
purchases from a Web storefront, and perhaps the use of digital
But not everyone aggress that the Open Source
patents are valid, arguing that ?broad categories? such as credit card
are not patentable:
Open Market's patents
kicked up considerable furor. They covered online "shopping carts" in
Web storefronts, certain secure-card payments over the Net, and some
ways of tracking visitors through a Web site. Critics attacked the
shopping cart patent in particular, saying it was "obvious" because it
merely moved a physical world concept onto the Net. A patent must cover
But the story gets better when ?Open Source? fails
and super-rich web speculators like Flip started seeking the to buy the
bankrupt Open Source, perhaps for it?s valuable e-commerce patents:
Market fell victim to the dot-com collapse, when the companies that
bought its commercial e-commerce software vanished in droves. Once worth
more than $2.1 billion, Open Market was gobbled up in 2001 for $59
million by Chicago-based Divine Inc.
Divine didn?t fare
well either. Just a year and a half later, Andrew ?Flip? Filipowski?s
Internet-incubator-turned-tech-rollup collapsed into the arms of
Protecting Your Oracle Application
The job of every Oracle professional is to ensure
that their work is unique and original, and every Oracle professional
must resist the temptation to ?borrow? features from other eCommerce
sites, last they be patented.
There is also a patent reform bill that was
submitted before Congress and a case pending before the
Supreme Court (KSR v. Teleflex), relating to the patentability of
Whether the Federal
Circuit has erred in holding that a claimed invention cannot be held
?obvious?, and thus unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. ? 103(a), in the
absence of some proven ??teaching, suggestion, or motivation? that would
have led a person of ordinary skill in the art to combine the relevant
prior art teachings in the manner claimed.?
Oracle has its own share of patent woes, too.
Oracle estimated that it spends millions of dollars each year defending
itself against patent infringement lawsuits (Microsoft spend over
$100,000,000 per year) and Oracle and Microsoft are both calling for
directed at the dozens of congressional staffers in the audience,
represented Microsoft's latest critique of a patent system that has
caused it to spend
$100 million a year
defending itself against 35 to 40 lawsuits at any one time. Microsoft
has gone on the legislative offensive after a jury awarded Eolas
Technologies $565 million in damages--which has been
a patent dispute over Internet Explorer.
If you are an Oracle manager, they you have a
larger duty where you must ensure that your company owns all licenses
for the technology used by your Oracle application.
- Consult a Patent Attorney - With
so-much of eCommerce being patented, there are no ?hard-and-fast?
lists for knowing if you have violated someone?s patent rights. A
Patent Attorney should be consulted to research the current status
of all patent infringement lawsuits relating to your eCommerce
- Use Vendor Packages - Another approach
is to use ?purchased? packages, such as Oracle?s eBusiness suite of
products. When you purchase a software package, the vendor assumes
all responsibility for the functionality of the software and your
company is not at-risk. Also, be aware that popular open-source
eCommerce products such as OsCommerce may not offer the same
protection as a ?paid-for? eCommerce solution.
Bottom line, it is easy to accidently appropriate a patented technology,
even if you write it from-scratch, and these honest mistakes could land your employer in court and
bankrupt your company. It?s the job of all Oracle developers are
designers to make sure that they do not put their company at-risk from