UK professor claims a patent on DBMS implementation techniques I have published on Tunes LLL ml.

Massimo Dentico
Tue Aug 19 13:51:02 2003

I have received this e-mail, my replay follow immediately:

  From: "Mr John Wilson" <>
  To: <>
  Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2003 2:03 PM
  Subject: Compressed database
  > -- Small steps toward a True Relational DBMSs?
  > -- 
  > We saw your paper, we implemented most of this in a system
  > patented in 1996. See Computer Journal, 41:5 : 283-296, 1998
  > ____________________________________________________________________________
  > John N. Wilson
  > Computer and Information Sciences, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow G1 
  > 1XH, Scotland
  > Phone: +44 (0)141 548 3584 (direct) Fax:   +44 (0)141 552 5330 (dept)
  I have  done a  little search  on US  patent database.  Please, can  you
  confirm that the number of your patent is 6,169,990?
  I am a little bit surprised, it is not clear to me where is the  novelty
  in the techniques  your patent claims.  The implementation techniques  I
  have published in that e-mail are old, some very old ("prior art").
  I have not claimed an "invention", my was more a synthesis of  available
  techniques applied to RDBMS implementation and even in this respect some
  are not new at all.
  I will inform the people of  the project I am affiliated (my  e-mail was
  published on one of the mailing  list of such project) and I  will quote
  your e-mail verbatim because nothing in it seems confidential.
  Massimo Dentico
  P.S.: Excuse me for my poor English.

He refers to my e-mail:

"Persistence: using compressed bitvectors to implement relations."

and to his paper:

W. Paul Cockshott, Douglas  R. McGregor, John Wilson:  "High-Performance
Operations Using a  Compressed Database Architecture",  Computer Journal
Volume 41, Number 5, pp. 283-296, 1998

To read (likely) his patent go to:

"US Patent Full-Text Database Number Search"

then query for patent number 6,169,990.

Reading this seems  clear that the  principal technique patented  is the
pair of domain  dictionary and "tokenization".  But this is  not new: to
support this claim suffice to read [4] in bibliographic references in my
cited e-mail ("The MacAIMS Data Management System" at MIT, *1971*!!).

Now, even if  you, members of  the Tunes project,  judge not interesting
the technique exposed in my e-mail, I invites you to don't underestimate
this incident: if the project  finally overcomes the phase of  vaporware
we could encounter other times  with the problem of software  patents on
publicly available techniques.

Do you have suggestions on how to proceed in this case?

Best regards.

Massimo Dentico