Memorandum

to:                 Interested parties

from:           Timeline, inc

subject:     Timeline patent coverage

date:            February 2003

 

 

Timeline’s US Patent # 5,802,511; US Patent # 6,023,694; and US Patent # 6,026,392 (herein collectively the ‘511 patents) have been termed pioneer patents in the design and use of data marts and data warehouses.  Timeline has licensed the patents to Microsoft Corporation, Oracle Corporation, Lawson Software, Hyperion Solutions, Sagent Technology, Broadbase Information Systems (now part of Kana), Noetix, and Seagate (now Crystal Decisions) to provide coverage for their products in certain circumstances.  Additionally, Timeline provides products which are embodiments of the ‘511 patents under OEM agreements with many companies (including Microsoft).

 

Timeline has also received patent coverage on all or a portion of the inventions covered by the ‘511 patents in Australia, Israel, Mexico, and Singapore.  Additional patents are pending within the same field in the U.S. and many other countries.

 

This memorandum is intended to help third parties analyze potential patent infringement(s) as it relates to their own product offerings.  It is Timeline’s position that any party on notice of the existence of the ‘511 patents has a legal duty to investigate and form a reasoned opinion on infringement.  That is not Timeline’s duty.  And, if a party forms an opinion that there is infringement, then its duty is to procure a patent license, or modify its products to “design around” an infringement, or cease any further use, license, maintenance, etc. of the product.  Otherwise, the users, manufacturers, and distributors are subject to statutory claims for treble damages for willful infringement similar to those embodied in RICO, Anti-trust and Consumer Fraud statutes. 

 

The ‘511 patents can apply to stand alone software products or combinations of software products.  Of particular focus at this time are products used in conjunction with Microsoft SQL Server 7.0 or after.  All Microsoft products stand-alone are licensed.  But whether a combination of products infringes all the elements of a valid claim of a Timeline patent must be examined.  If so, then whether the non-Microsoft code or product provides at least one of the material steps in such infringement must be determined.  In that case, the step(s) provided by the third party product or code is not covered by Microsoft’s license.  The user, licensee, licensor, or manufacturer must secure its own license or stop any further use. 

 

Timeline takes the position that Microsoft Analyst Services databases built with Microsoft’s tools (Manager) provide all necessary steps to infringe one or more of the independent claims of the ‘511 patents.  It would follow that third party products which provide the additional material feature or function covered by a dependant claim to one of those independent claims would cause a new infringement outside the scope of Microsoft’s license.  Microsoft does not concede that its products in fact infringe, nor was such a statement required under the Timeline patent license it procured.  Also, not every user of SQL Server will use the allegedly infringing portions of SQL Server.  However, that is now moot.  A combination where all material steps are present, and at least one material step is performed by a third party, requires its own license; regardless of whether Microsoft itself provided sufficient steps to independently infringe a different claim.

 

Timeline does not take the position that Microsoft SQL Server relational databases built using the basic DTS functionality necessarily infringe the ‘511 patents.  However, Timeline believes that third party code or products used in conjunction with DTS can easily expand DTS capabilities to cause an infringing combination.

 

In the recent litigation Microsoft Corporation vs. Timeline, Inc., Microsoft attempted to get the courts to interpret its license to the Timeline patents such that any step performed by Microsoft products would be ignored in an infringement analysis of a combination of products used together.  This would have required the court to throw out a specific limitation contained in the Timeline/Microsoft license on this point.  Microsoft’s efforts failed.

 

With that background in mind, Timeline discusses below the importance of a number of the patent claims simply as a guide for analysis.  Obviously, the discussion is generic in the absence of agreements on confidentiality, standstill or other arrangements.  The 70 patent claims granted in the U.S. consist of 68 pages of technical documentation and drawings.  Consequently, we cannot fully outline their application in a short memo.  The descriptions used are not intended to provide the entire breadth of functions that could be covered by a cited claim, and this document does not waive or limit Timeline’s ability to claim broader or more specific application to any such function.  Furthermore, we do not attempt to discuss all claims.  Finally, nothing contained in this memorandum should be considered as making a claim against any particular company or product.

 

The patents were granted under the title “Data Retrieval Method and Apparatus With Multiple Source Capability”.  The ‘511 patents cover key technologies in automating the production of data warehouses/marts and the downstream delivery and enhancement of the information so obtained.  You can secure copies from any number of web sites.

 

A key design feature of Timeline’s own products is the use of a logical database (target) separate from the transaction system (source).  Examples of claims are:

 

  1. A number of claims cover using a driver to interrogate a source (e.g. transaction systems), use the information from the source to determine its structure, and in turn use the structural information in a middleware layer to design, without coding, the structure of a target data mart or data warehouse which is different than the source.  While this could take many forms, Timeline believes that Analyst Services Manager allows relational data base information (source) to be used to design star schemas in cubes (target).  This is a simple example.  The courts, in the course of litigation, have confirmed human interfacing with drag and drop, mapping, selecting criteria, etc. does not defeat the patent as long as it does not require professional programming skills (see Claim 1 of ‘511 for ‘pull’ or query model; Claim 23 of ‘694 for mapping of source metadata to target metadata on a new data mart; Claim 1 of ‘392 for application to an existing data mart; Claim 10 of ‘392 for ‘push’ model versus query model).

  2. Write-back to target database(s).  (See Claim 5 of ‘392, Claim 5 & 6 ‘694).

  3. Pulling data from multiple sources ending up in the same target structure.  (See Claim 6 of ‘511.  Also note Claim 7 of ‘511 on use of chart of accounts to automatically determine the structure or number of dimensions needed in a reporting data mart; to automatically pick up changes in the chart of accounts, etc.  Obviously this is a key technology in financial reporting).

  4. A dependant claim is reporting off of a mart built under the method above (Claim 7 of ‘511, Claim 14 of ‘394) (Claim 15 of ‘392 to enhance reporting).  This should be considered if a third party determines in its analysis that an Analyst Services cube was itself built in an infringing (but licensed) manner.  The point is the first to patent a core technology is likely to be the first to develop enhancements in its utilization.

  5. Other dependant claims include scheduling the building of or refresh of target data marts (Claim 22 of ‘511 and Claim 12 of ‘392) and publishing of reporting databases by area of responsibility (Claims 6, 7 & 13 of ‘392), natural language queries (Claim 9 of ‘694); caching query results (Claim 11 of ‘694), loading data from source (Claim 3 of ‘511, Claim 4 of ‘392); a user interface to select from various drivers (Claim 21 of ‘392); creating new tables in target (Claim 22 of ‘392); generating tables (Claim 23 of ‘392).

  6. Optimizing reporting marts (e.g. adding summarization, roll-ups, new relationships through an interface, etc.  (Claims 11 & 12 of ‘511 for new data marts and Claim 1 of ‘392 for existing data marts); etc.

 

We urge you to obtain and read the full text of these patents, available at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website (www.uspto.gov).

 

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