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USPTO Grants Google a Patent On MapReduce 191

Posted by kdawson
from the reductio-ad-absurdum dept.
theodp writes "Two years ago, David DeWitt and Michael Stonebraker deemed MapReduce a major step backwards (here are the original paper and a defense of it) that 'represents a specific implementation of well known techniques developed nearly 25 years ago.' A year later, the pair teamed up with other academics and eBay to slam MapReduce again. But the very public complaints didn't stop Google from demanding a patent for MapReduce; nor did it stop the USPTO from granting Google's request (after four rejections). On Tuesday, the USPTO issued U.S. Patent No. 7,650,331 to Google for inventing Efficient Large-Scale Data Processing."
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USPTO Grants Google a Patent On MapReduce

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @02:59PM (#30822766)

    Just the other day I couldn't sign up for a gmail account without google demanding my mobile telephone number!

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:15PM (#30823034) Homepage Journal

    We're probably never going to get rid of software patents, odious as they are; at this point there are too many enormous players, of which Google is not at all the worst offender, with way too much invested in them. But it occurs to me that one change to patent law that might be politically feasible, and which would really help cut down on clearly frivolous patents like this one:

    If any claim in the patent is held to be invalid, the entire patent is invalid.

    Claim 1 of the patent is simply an arcane, legalistic description of the operation of pretty much every parallel processing algorithm ever. Some of the subsequent claims actually do describe novel, non-obvious, and useful ways of handling large data sets across multiple processors. If the patent were restricted to these claims, well, it would still be a software patent and therefore Evil, but it might at least have some claim to promoting "the progress of science and the useful arts."

    In general, it seems like this would make both patent trolling, and big companies like Google lawyering small independent developers to death, a little more difficult.

  • resume builders (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:16PM (#30823046)
    I wrote a parallel application to process scientific data on multiple servers at a previous place I worked, using just SQL statements with a mod function on a primary key. The resume builders there then hired a consultant to help them rewrite the whole thing (excluding the core atomic algorithm part) using Hadoop and MapReduce, because the previous one didn't use Hadoop and MapReduce. They made a total mess and it's so hard to configure and deploy that IT still uses the version I wrote a year before.
  • by v(*_*)vvvv (233078) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:41PM (#30823400)

    A patent is only worth it's strength in court. The USPTO has clearly given up trying to judge if a patent is truly worthy on their own, relying on the courts to decide afterwards when a patent is put to use and put to the test - in court.

    What bothers me the most is the fact that anyone can get a patent for anything as long as they keep revising their application.

    At the end of the day, those with the biggest wallets will get their patents, and they will also have their guns to fight and win in court.

  • by BuddaLicious (1628555) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:46PM (#30823462)

    how do you get a patent awarded on something that has already been released as "open source" (Hadoop)

    This does not add up, either Hadoop is not really open source, or US patent office are as FCKING stupid as EVERYONE seems to think they are.

    Come on people, don't you get tired of the shame of working for such an organization....don't you want to see freedom and democracy restored to the world..?>?>

  • Re:!do no evil (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GIL_Dude (850471) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @03:56PM (#30823590) Homepage
    I agree about the Google redirects. I know they have been there for awhile now, but I first actually "noticed" them (as in they caused me a problem) just the other day when I was trying to get some links to "further reading" to go into some technical document I was writing. I sure didn't want Google redirect links in my document so I actually ended up going to Bing and doing the same search. That worked better as Bing apparently doesn't do the redirect thing and the links are actually links to the site you searched for. Bing doesn't do anything else better, but Google made their links useless for that function.
  • by Dan Ost (415913) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @04:15PM (#30823858)

    Previous post seems to indicate that this patent application was filed in 2004, before Hadoop was created. If true, and if Google decides to use this patent against Hadoop, and if the patent withstands the scrutiny of a court battle, then Hadoop, at least as Open Source, would be dead.

    Don't jump to conclusions yet, however. It'll take some time to digest the patent and decide what it's really attempting to cover.

  • Re:!do no evil (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kripkenstein (913150) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @04:16PM (#30823870) Homepage
    Why do you think the recent Google-China issue is either all about Google having a conscience or all about Google acting in their own self interest? It's both, and it's complicated.

    For one thing, having a conscience is in Google's best self interest. Public image is crucial for a company like that.

    For another, companies Google's size (or any size, if they are competent) don't make decisions based on 1 factor. They take into account many, many factors, including conflicting ones, and they arrive at a decision. In this case, clearly both the conscience issue was a factor as well as the self interest factor.
  • Anticipation is narrow. Infringement, however, is broad. A slight difference between the purported prior art and the claim means the prior art doesn't invalidate the claim.

    ... under 35 USC 102, but it could well under 35 USC 103(a). Infringement is broad due to the doctrine of equivalents... Obviousness is similarly broad due to the KSR factors.

  • Michael Stonebraker (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @07:01PM (#30826028)

    Michael Stonebraker [wikipedia.org] co-founded of Vertica [wikipedia.org], a column-store database system. In the SIGMOD '09 paper that "slammed" MapReduce, he and the other academics use Vertica alongside another unidentified commercial database system to show the weaknesses of the MapReduce model (using Hadoop [wikipedia.org], the most popular publicly available implementation).

    I mean no offense to Stonebraker and this fact alone certainly does not imply anything, but it should still be noted. It appears to be a clear ethics/conflict-of-interest violation to me and it is unfortunate that (to my knowledge) no one in the database community has spoken up. Posted anonymously for obvious reasons.

  • Re:!do no evil (Score:2, Interesting)

    by domatic (1128127) on Tuesday January 19, 2010 @07:02PM (#30826052)

    So why not follow the money and retaliate against the investors? An attack is an attack regardless of whether it is done by proxy. That is in line with MAD thinking too where an attack by or on an ally is escalated against the parent aggressor.

I find you lack of faith in the forth dithturbing. - Darse ("Darth") Vader

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