January 15, 2010

Vertica slaughters Sybase in patent litigation

Back in August, 2008, I pooh-poohed Sybase’s patent lawsuit against Vertica. Filed in the notoriously patent-holder-friendly East Texas courts, the suit basically claimed patent rights over the whole idea of a columnar RDBMS. It was pretty clear that this suit was meant to be a model for claims against other columnar RDBMS vendors as well, should they ever achieve material marketplace success.

If a recent Vertica press release is to be believed, Sybase got clobbered. The meat is:

…  Sybase has admitted that under the claim construction order issued by the Court on November 9, 2009, “Vertica does not infringe Claims 1-15 of U.S. Patent No. 5,794,229.” Sybase further acknowledged that because the Court ruled that all the remaining claims in the patent (claims 16-24) were invalid, “Sybase cannot prevail on those claims.”

For those counting along at home — the patent only has 24 claims in total.

I have no idea whether Sybase can still cobble together grounds for appeal, or claims under some other patent. But for now, this sounds like a total victory for Vertica.

Edit: I’ve now seen a PDF of a filing suggesting the grounds under which Sybase will appeal. Basically, it alleges that the judge erred in defining a “page” of data too narrowly. Note that if Sybase prevails on appeal on that point, Vertica has a bunch of other defenses that haven’t been litigated yet. It further seems that Sybase may have recently filed another patent case against Vertica, in a different venue, based on a different patent.

One annoying blog troll excepted, is anybody surprised at this outcome?


6 Responses to “Vertica slaughters Sybase in patent litigation”

  1. Shawn Fox on January 16th, 2010 9:25 am

    The outcome surprises me. Our patent system is completely broken when it comes to the computer industry. The ability for companies to file and win patent lawsuits over solutions which are obvious to a professional in the industry never ceases to amaze.

  2. Curt Monash on January 16th, 2010 8:34 pm


    As I noted back in 2008, I don’t think it’s really that bad. The patent system is an annoying tax on business, but it doesn’t wind up rearranging the competitive landscape in a bad way very often.

    I think it’s noteworthy that Vertica got such a resounding win in the venue they did, but even so I’m not sure I would have posted about it if there hadn’t been such an annoying troll trying to make a big deal of the litigation when it was still active.

  3. Carl Kayser on January 20th, 2010 10:56 am

    Interesting (?) then that Sybase is appealing the ruling. Now it is in northern California instead of eastern Texas.

  4. Curt Monash on January 20th, 2010 3:40 pm

    Two separate things:

    1. Having gotten clobbered in a Texas court, Sybase is appealing, as is its right.

    2. There’s a new case based on a different patent, filed in a different venue (Northern California).

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