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USPTO Grants Google a Patent On MapReduce

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the reductio-ad-absurdum dept.

Patents 191

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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!do no evil (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822664)

Guess they had to burn some of the karma they earned for standing up to China.....

Re:!do no evil (4, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822774)

They already burned their karma adding the "fade-in" menu bar.

Re:!do no evil (5, Insightful)

astrashe (7452) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822940)

Isn't that awful? I can't understand why they did it.

Moving stuff on web pages sucks. Especially on that web page.

The bad thing isn't the fade in itself. It's that Google used to be run by people who knew what sucked and what didn't. Now it seems like there are people who don't know in positions to call some shots. It's a bad omen.

They're probably about 10 years away from their own version of Microsoft's "Bob".

Re:!do no evil (4, Insightful)

Animaether (411575) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823502)

The fade-in is nice. Not so much because it's a fade-in (which is just visually more pleasant than an instant-display), but because you can visit www.google.com and get a very clean page (google logo, search field, and currently a Haiti relief notice), and just type away (as focus is set to the search field) and be done with it. This is very much like how google.com -was- in the very early days.

If you want to access any of the other services that google have started to offer since then, you can move your mouse anywhere within the screen and hey presto those options become available to you. If you don't need them - why clutter up the screen with them?

You can always customize your own google page and set that as your bookmark/start page/whatever and display exact what you want to have displayed from the get-go.

If anything, the change from direct URLs to google redirects at some point is what I find most annoying. I guess it's what enables them to track clicks better / present "We believe this page is dangerous for your health"-warnings, etc. and I can see how that can be good for them as a business, and for users who go clickhappy on fluffy little bunnies promising them cash. But it annoys me that I can't just 1. google for something, 2. recognize the right place, 3. right-click the result and get the basic URL out of it anymore. Now, I just get this (for slashdot):
http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&ved=0CBgQFkAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fslashdot.org%2F&rct=j&q=slashdot&ei=KAtXS8CCLeLMQAeSx8CbDg&usg=AFQjClHLEL_tF-6ZxylM44KJH54-gaJRnQ&s1g2=U223qDAEXHFbHyOw_p2PzQ [google.com]

wtf.

I'd much prefer they put the actual URL in the link, and let their redirect flow through an onClick.. yeah, they'd lose the javascript-disabled lot.. tough.

Re:!do no evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30823574)

http://www.consumingexperience.com/2009/10/google-search-results-redirection.html [consumingexperience.com]

and from there:
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/57679 [userscripts.org] - Google Search - Remove Redirection /anon - forgot to add that info to my above post. *twiddles thumbs waiting for the cowboy to slow down*

Re:!do no evil (2, Interesting)

GIL_Dude (850471) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823590)

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.

Re:!do no evil (1)

patman600 (669121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824370)

Where does google do redirects? Doing a normal search, on multiple browsers, both mac and pc, both logged in and not, google search results just contain the direct links.

Re:!do no evil (3, Informative)

MechaStreisand (585905) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824484)

I've noticed that when you do a google search and mouseover the links, it shows the direct link in the status bar, but that is a lie. If you look at the actual URL in the link properties, you'll see that it redirects through google. Sneaky.

Re:!do no evil (2, Informative)

patman600 (669121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824598)

I did look at the url properties. It was the plain url. A search for "houston chronicle" returns this <a href="http://www.chron.com/" class=l onmousedown="return clk(this.href,'','','res','1','','0CAcQFjAA')"><em>Houston Chronicle</em></a> right clicking and copying the link location copies "http://www.chron.com"

Re:!do no evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30823526)

You're right, Google has gotten too big. It was bound to happen eventually.

Unlike many companies, however, they managed to keep the marketing, usability and design worms (that is, untalented people) out longer than many places do.

It doesn't take long for some self-proclaimed "expert" to bring in stupid shit like the fading-in menu bar. At many places, the pure research and engineering culture just isn't as entrenched, including up to the top of management, as it is (was?) at Google. So they can't immediately put an end to shenanigans like that right away, while a smaller Google probably could have.

It'll only get worse. Chrome OS is a good example of this. It's a fucking stupid idea from concept to implementation. It's just plain restrictive and not at all usable, by anyone. It's the sort of crap that makes its way up through the marketing side of a company, rather than coming up through R&D or engineering. And that's why it's useless. It's built out of marketing's hope for a yet-to-exist demand, rather than solving a very real problem.

Re:!do no evil (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823626)

So, the "pure research and engineering culture" never makes anything that sucks? In my experience, bad ideas aren't exclusive to any particular group. Good ideas aren't either. "Us vs. Them" produces a lot of heat, but no light.

You're close (0, Flamebait)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823760)

But the real sentiment is that "MY" culture never makes anything that sucks. Incidentally, I'm also always right. I once thought I was wrong, but that was a mistake. If that ever changes it's because evil democrats "healthcared" my good brain cells out and replaced them with more politically correct ones.

Re:You're close (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823960)

So we'll know if you received any democratic brain cells when you wimp-out at the thought of a total Republican no vote.

Of course with Republican brains cells you'd pee your pants at the thought of making an independent choice against your congressional leaders.

Re:!do no evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30823918)

A lot of Googles greatness in the past decade and change has come from an immense surplus that they have managed to get access to in internet commerce. This surplus has allowed them to give away so much and work on so many interesting projects that don't directly fit into their business model. In a lot of ways, they are riding a wave there is no reason to think will sustain itself indefinitely. When money is no longer pouring threw their channels and the original minds behind the company and its philosophy have moved sufficiently into the background, like many big corporations in their later phases, Google will likely shift to squatting on their intellectual assets and trying to rent out their controlling access to information. This is the position that Microsoft has been in for a while, shifting their energies more toward selling and policing access to their intellectual estate.

Ultimately, like Capitalism itself, Google is good at extracting value from the periphery (as Rushkoff puts it). This process itself depends on the redistribution of surplus already existing in various places; money to spend in one place and things to sell lucratively in another. If e-commerce stagnates economically because less money is being spent and fewer genuinely demanded products are being produced, or if e-commerce even becomes to direct as in the case of Amazon as a centralizing market place, Google risks losing the ground it ambitiously builds so much on.

In other words, Google might not appear like just another conservatively minded corporation, and rather seems like a company with a genuinely progressive philanthropic culture with a philosophy to do more than just business. But one cannot discount the possibility that this is all just a fortunate contingency which Google has fallen into and been generous with, and when the novelty revenue begins to dry up, Google will begin to look like just another large tech corporation collecting rent on their property.

Re:!do no evil (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30823788)

You're own fault for even USING the thing in the first place.
Learn to use your address bar and / or search bar more effectively and you will feel much happier.

I can't believe people still go to Google.com. Seriously.

Re:!do no evil (1)

Ksevio (865461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824286)

It's not like they just did it on a whim. They did research with usability between different models before settling on the current one. I don't see why you need any of the other stuff anyways, so the fade just helps you cut out the clutter and zero in on the search bar when you load the page.

You can read about it on their blog:
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/12/now-you-see-it-now-you-dont.html [blogspot.com]

Re:!do no evil (1)

BhaKi (1316335) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822802)

That's exactly my first thought. But then I weighed the loss in revenues for standing up to china against the gain they would get from this patent. The loss is heavier and hence the hypothesis fails.

Re:!do no evil (3, Insightful)

astrashe (7452) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822812)

This sounds more stupid than evil, which is interesting, because Google doesn't do obviously stupid things very often.

The patent won't do them any good, because it won't stand up in court. They could use it to attack someone small -- an open source developer who would have to back down because they couldn't handle teh legal fees -- but they don't have much of a history of that sort of thing, and there's no reason to think they would in this case, either.

It won't do them any good at all against someone big -- MS and Bing, for example -- because MS would have good lawyers who could demonstrate prior art to a court.

So what's the point?

Re:!do no evil (3, Insightful)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823262)

The point is probably to create and keep a nice big portfolio of patents to be used the next time Google gets sued for patent infringement. It's common practice for big tech firms (and others, of course) to hold a reserve of patents at the ready in the event that they need to defend against a patent suit. The aggressor company sues for infringement, the defender digs up a few patents that the aggressor is violating, and they settle out of court for a mutual licensing agreement.

Of course it's ridiculous, and sounds stupid, but it's a symptom of the broken patent system, not a peculiarity of Google.

Re:!do no evil (2, Informative)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823546)

The backdoor to that system as we've seen is to sell of a patent to a investment firm which stands up a patent troll company (or buys a small company in the field and turns it into a patent troll) and have them abuse it, the MAD strategy then no longer works as the opponent only exists to spend their cash reserves on the lawsuit and to turn over any profits to the investors.

Re:!do no evil (1, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823050)

What karma? Google bowed to pressure from the Chinese government to censor their results from the beginning. Some may argue that that was the price they had to pay to open up China but it was still a massive karma burn. Google didn't just grow a conscience about dealing with China, they are acting in their own selfish interest as they always have been.

Re:!do no evil (3, Interesting)

kripkenstein (913150) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823870)

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.

google is getting evil (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30822766)

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

Re:google is getting evil (4, Funny)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822994)

Nah, they got this patent so that an evil company can't swoop in and patent the stuff, and prevent others from implementing it without charging crippling royalties. Right? Right??

Re:google is getting evil (4, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823226)

Behold: the one true undeniable positive trait of the current broken patent system. Keeping horrible ideas expensive.

Re:google is getting evil (0)

iammani (1392285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823028)

What? Are you sure it was not a phishing site that was made to look similar to gmail? I recommend you visit https://mail.google.com/ [google.com] instead.

Mod Parent Up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30823520)

Google has never asked for mobile numbers (except, of course, if you want to sign up for google voice).

Re:Mod Parent Up (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823676)

Not true. In the period between "by invitation only" and "anybody can sign up", you had to provide your mobile number to sign up without an invitation. I know because I did it.

Unless a phishing site has been delivering my mail for the last 7 years.

My years are wrong (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823708)

Actually, it can't be 7 years - It's only been around since 2004.

Re:google is getting evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30823150)

That is doubtful. Very doubtful.

Regardless, I am allowing you to use my cell number: 111-222-3333

Don't pass it around please.

Re:google is getting evil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30823228)

In a pinch, if your site does phone number parsing/validation, use mine: 212-555-1212

Re:google is getting evil (2, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823614)

They've always done that, haven't they? You sign up, then they text you a validation code.

I'm all for it as long as it keeps people from abusing Gmail accounts. Google's heuristics are so sharp that they could probably figure out your number even if you don't directly hand it to them.

will be interesting to see if they use it (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822844)

A somewhat optimistic guess is that they'll be restricted to using this defensively. Are they really going to sue Hadoop, the open-source implementation of MapReduce? Hadoop not only implements a version of MapReduce, it even uses its name [apache.org] , so is not at all coy about being a direct infringement of this patent. And yet, I would be surprised if Google sued them, or the many people using it [apache.org] . They certainly haven't said anything yet, as far as I can find--- when things like Amazon Elastic MapReduce [amazon.com] were launched, I can't find record of Google saying, "hey, you're stealing our tech!"

Re:will be interesting to see if they use it (1)

tangent3 (449222) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823016)

Even Qt has a MapReduce implementation...
http://doc.trolltech.com/4.6/qtconcurrentmap.html [trolltech.com]

Re:will be interesting to see if they use it (2, Informative)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823412)

MapReduce (and variants like Map/Reduce...) are standard nomenclature.

Re:will be interesting to see if they use it (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823044)

It'll be nice to see maps.google.com have it's bandwidth reduced using the mapreduce technic.

I'd really like a full city map that fits in my pocket.

This patent can do lots of good things.

Re:will be interesting to see if they use it (2, Funny)

Razalhague (1497249) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823730)

Considering that another name for reduce is fold, I think you might be onto something there.

Re:will be interesting to see if they use it (1)

bit9 (1702770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823078)

I can't find record of Google saying, "hey, you're stealing our tech!"

Maybe you just used the wrong search keywords. Nobody says "you're stealing our tech". The correct phraseology would be "hey, you're infringing on our IP!"

One of Many, Many Google Patents (3, Informative)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822852)

Google has at least 173 issued patents [google.com] as well as over two hundred pending applications [google.com] . That doesn't include the various patents (such as the PageRank patent) that it is the exclusive licensee for but does not actually own (Stanford owns it). Google's software patent strategy dates back to at least 1997, when it filed this application [google.com] , which actually predates the PageRank application.

Re:One of Many, Many Google Patents (1)

Improv (2467) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822918)

Pity patenting obvious things is their policy. Even I have prior art on this one.

Who Wrote This? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30822894)

Your summary of the situation "isn't even wrong". One does not "demand" a patent, one writes an application which is then examined against prior art and other bars to patentability. Seriously, who wrote this?

Awarded? (1)

gehrehmee (16338) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822910)

How do we know the patent is awarded? I'm no expert on reading patents, but I don't see any references to a patent status there.

Re:Awarded? (3, Informative)

blee37 (1181835) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823230)

All documents at http://patft.uspto.gov/ [uspto.gov] are issued patents.

Re:Awarded? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30824264)

Uh... the page you just linked to has two columns. One says "Issued Patents" and the other says "Patent Applications."

Re:Awarded? (1)

blee37 (1181835) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824534)

If you click on the "patent applications" side it goes to http://appft.uspto.gov/ [uspto.gov] instead.

Meaning for Hadoop? (5, Funny)

harmonica (29841) | more than 4 years ago | (#30822946)

Does this endanger the Hadoop [apache.org] project, or projects using Hadoop? Its MapReduce [apache.org] implementation is a rather crucial part.

Re:Meaning for Hadoop? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30823112)

Funny? Looks like Mods on drugs!

Re:Meaning for Hadoop? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30824090)

So why exactly is this funny?

Defensive patent (2, Insightful)

istartedi (132515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823002)

Before you go acusing Google of doing Evil (TM), think. If they don't do this, some troll will. The troll will lose, but Google will waste a lot more money defending against it.

This is why IBM takes out so many patents too. Most of them are "defensive" patents.

We (that being everybody except the USPTO) could agree not to take out any more software patents, and the industry would breathe a collective sigh of relief. Trouble is, it only takes a few bad apples to spoil that approach. It's the same reason Communism didn't work.

Re:Defensive patent (0, Flamebait)

aflag (941367) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823132)

We (that being everybody except the USPTO) could agree not to take out any more software patents, and the industry would breathe a collective sigh of relief. Trouble is, it only takes a few bad apples to spoil that approach. It's the same reason Communism didn't work.

Right on! If everyone were just a bit more like Lenin...

Re:Defensive patent (4, Insightful)

blee37 (1181835) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823216)

It is not true that if Google doesn't patent it, a troll will. A technique that is well known, such as MapReduce, is the property of the general public and is unpatentable. Any technology that has been sold or in use for over a year is unpatentable.

Re:Defensive patent (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823362)

Citation?

Re:Defensive patent (1)

blee37 (1181835) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823568)

Re:Defensive patent (2, Informative)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823924)

Considering how much that section has been ignored I would not count on that section preventing a patent troll from trying to patent the process that Google just patented had Google not patented it.

Re:Defensive patent (5, Insightful)

Target Practice (79470) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823492)

"A technique that is well known, such as MapReduce, is the property of the general public and is unpatentable."

Someone should really let the patent clerks in on that secret...

Re:Defensive patent (2, Insightful)

schon (31600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823542)

It is not true that if Google doesn't patent it, a troll will.

Really? Why?

MapReduce, is the property of the general public and is unpatentable

.. and yet it just got patented somehow!

I find it hard to believe that the PTO decided "Well, this isn't patentable, but we'll allow Google to patent it just because they're Google."

If Google was granted a patent on it, then a patent troll could have done the same.

Re:Defensive patent (1)

blee37 (1181835) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823628)

If the Google patent is truly for something that is already known then it should not have been issued. I did not read the whole patent. Patents always have to be for something new that is not yet known by others: http://www.uspto.gov/patents/basics.jsp#novelty [uspto.gov] . If what Google patent was already known (and I'm not saying that it is because I didn't read the whole thing) then it can be challenged and overturned in court. It can be challenged in federal district court, appealed to the Federal Circuit, and appealed to the Supreme Court.

Re:Defensive patent (1)

pavera (320634) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823846)

yes, it can be challenged, but at what cost? Running a patent case up the appeals ladder like that will cost many tens of millions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions. So, the only people who can preemptively challenge patents are the people who have the most interest in seeing the status quo continued (IE IBM, MSFT, GOOG)

Anyway, the ancestors in this post are correct, if google doesn't patent this, and say, linkedin, or facebook, or any of the other hundreds of businesses that use map/reduce had tried and succeeded in patenting it (yes, they shouldn't be able to, but shouldn't, and can are not mutually exclusive in this case). Then they'd be able to sue google and say "Hey google derives 90% of their revenue from the application of this algorithm, we feel we are entitled to at least 50% of google's revenue". And, if they can get a jury of 12 uninformed, generally marginally educated people in the eastern district of Texas to see it there way, well, then thats what it will be. Unless google wants to spend untold millions fighting.

Much easer to spend the 3-500k pushing the patent through.

Re:Defensive patent (1)

leenks (906881) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823620)

I'm not defending patents, but this patent was filed for on June 18, 2004. The MapReduce paper was released in December 2004. The fact that it is similar to functional programming primitives is largely irrelavent - it is the application of the technique in a novel way to solve a specific problem (ie large scale data processing) which makes it patentable. For a start, the system described in the patent includes details on parallelisation/processing task distribution, rack awareness, and lots more.

"Unpatentable" (1)

weston (16146) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823800)

Any technology that has been sold or in use for over a year is unpatentable.

A patent based on such technology may not stand up in court, but to start with, in practice "patentable" means something the USPTO will issue a patent on. And the examiner looking at whether to grant such an issue may not be familiar with relevant prior art, not to mention that they may not even have any particular incentive to examine a given patent application closely.

Re:Defensive patent (1)

wtbname (926051) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823974)

A technique that is well known, such as MapReduce, is the property of the general public and is unpatentable.. Any technology that has been sold or in use for over a year is unpatentable.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

From TFA: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=7,650,331.PN.&OS=PN/7,650,331&RS=PN/7,650,331 [uspto.gov]

Re:Defensive patent (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824592)

It is not true that if Google doesn't patent it, a troll will. A technique that is well known, such as MapReduce, is the property of the general public and is unpatentable.

If it was unpatentable in practice Google would obviously not have been granted a patent on it; since they were granted a patent on it, the inescapable conclusion is that, in practice, MapReduce is in the category of things which can be patented (whether it should be or not), and therefore, it is not at all inconceivable that if Google had failed to patent it, some patent troll would have.

Re:Defensive patent (0, Troll)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823780)

"This is why IBM takes out so many patents too. Most of them are "defensive" patents."

Yes. Let's have a toast to all the prolific patent-holders and their "defensive" patents. I'll pour the Kool-Aid.

Re:Defensive patent (1)

ahem (174666) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823938)

This is totally off topic, but I'm amused by the irony inherent in your signature. It is of the form:

(mangled idiom), (linguisitic joke)

Please try:

For all intents and purposes, ...

Unless, of course, you're asserting that only people that work really hard that use 'whom' are targeted.

Re:Defensive patent (1)

anegg (1390659) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824418)

At the risk of being modded Offtopic (which I am), You are either trolling for grammer Nazis, or you misapprehended a phrase... I believe you meant to say "For all *intents* and *purposes*" in your signature line, not "For all intensive purposes..."

A quick idea for patent reform (4, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823034)

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.

Re:A quick idea for patent reform (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823274)

"We're probably never going to get rid of software patents, odious as they are"

Careful with generalizations. MapReduce is not such a bad thing to patent, provided of course that you actually invented it. The problem here seems not to be that the patent is frivolous but rather that Google didn't even come close to inventing the thing they've patented.

Re:A quick idea for patent reform (0)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823374)

Software patents are inherently wrong. It doesn't matter if you invent an algorithm or not, because algorithms are just mathematical expressions, and you can't (or shouldn't be able to) patent math. And algorithms are usually implemented, not in physical (patentable) devices, but in software programs, for which the appropriate protection is copyright, not patent.

The obvious exception is in chip design, where algorithms are implemented in physical devices. I don't have a problem with chip patents, just as long as we remember that it's the implementation being patented, not the idea, and limit lawsuits accordingly.

Don't even get me started on "business processes."

Re:A quick idea for patent reform (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823940)

A machine, or a chip, is just a physical manifestation of math. Can you come up with good justifications for your assertions? Why should a machine be patentable and an software algorithm not be? Why should a chemical process (an algorithm for manipulating chemicals, such as refining aluminum) be patentable and a method for manipulating information not be?

Re:A quick idea for patent reform (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30824302)

So you'd be all for letting someone patent, say, a^2 + b^2 = c^2? Great idea, let's kill the ability to learn or innovate by using something that was intended to encourage such!

Re:A quick idea for patent reform (2, Insightful)

samkass (174571) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824344)

Software patents are inherently wrong. It doesn't matter if you invent an algorithm or not, because algorithms are just mathematical expressions, and you can't (or shouldn't be able to) patent math. And algorithms are usually implemented, not in physical (patentable) devices, but in software programs, for which the appropriate protection is copyright, not patent.

So you're asserting that you should be able to copyright math?

The whole "software is math" argument is old and debunked. Anything which requires creativity and careful analysis, and the investment therein, is a potentially valuable addition to human knowledge. In exchange for investing in such a thing, there should be the potential to protect your investment from copycats without resorting to keeping it a secret.

I don't see any difference between patenting a physical machine and a computer model of a machine if they follow identical rules and required the same amount of thought and work to produce.

Re:A quick idea for patent reform (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823452)

We're probably never going to get rid of software patents, odious as they are;

The way the oral arguments on Bilski vs Kappos went [supremecourtus.gov] back in November, software patents are one step away from an endangered species.

When you have every judge in the Supreme Court agreeing with one another on a subject...

Re:A quick idea for patent reform (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823532)

I'd like to believe you're right, but the serious lobbying hasn't started yet. And the fact that patents like the one discussed in this story are still being granted shows that there's still life in the old beast.

Re:A quick idea for patent reform (1)

RKThoadan (89437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823738)

I tend to think the extinction of software patents has a chance. While most of the big software companies use them, they are aware of the double-edged sword nature of them. They might lobby for them somewhat, but I don't think you'll see them doing a full-court press. Some of them may even decide they'd rather see software patents go away so they won't be targets of the trolls.

Re:A quick idea for patent reform (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823746)

Yeah, but they can't deny patents due to a pending lawsuit that could potentially outlaw them...

I'm telling you though, read through the arguments. It will only take you 15-20 minutes. The justices, all of them, continuously ripped these people new orifices. It was a beatdown quite unlike anything I've seen (read?) in the Supreme Court for a long time.

Re:A quick idea for patent reform (1)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823766)

How does one lobby the Supreme Court?

Re:A quick idea for patent reform (1)

Harin_Teb (1005123) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824600)

all such a rule would do is 1) force small inventors out of the patent field due to increased costs, and 2) SLAM the USPTO with applications which are virtually identical but have different claims instead of 20 claims in one patent, you'd have 20 patents, each with one claim.

IAAPA

resume builders (2, Interesting)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:resume builders (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824044)

As a rule of thumb, if a custom application does the job and works fairly well, say a grade of C+ or higher, don't bother replacing it with something newer or faddier until you know with high confidence you'll get *significant* improvement in performance and/or features with the replacement. It's not easy getting custom software to work fairly well and the business-rules discovery process is often hard-won trial-and-error (at least in my domain). Reinvent broken wheels, not merely chipped ones. If possible, identify the problem bottlenecks of the existing app and try to tackles those if you want a good investment in time.

need awareness of the "old" algorithms (2, Informative)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823108)

The greybeards have a point there. In my branch of signal processing where have gone through cycles several times as computer hardware evolves. In my experience we've been through minicomputers, array processors, workstations, clusters, stream processors, multi-cores etc. Each configuration as different balance of CPU speed, memory size, memory bandwidth, and so on. So we've gone through the difference algorithms, the integral algorithms, the spectral, the local-transform, cyclic matrices, etc. back and forth several times. Sometimes each new generation of grad students feels it has invented something new if sloppy work by their faculty advisor doesnt correct them.

The usual /. patent question - (4, Informative)

Janthkin (32289) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823124)

- did the submitter actually read the claims, before asserting that it was obvious and/or anticipated?
Here's claim 1 (it's a monster): 1. A system for large-scale processing of data, comprising:
a plurality of processes executing on a plurality of interconnected processors;
the plurality of processes including a master process, for coordinating a data processing job for processing a set of input data, and worker processes;
the master process, in response to a request to perform the data processing job, assigning input data blocks of the set of input data to respective ones of the worker processes;
each of a first plurality of the worker processes including an application-independent map module for retrieving a respective input data block assigned to the worker process by the master process and applying an application-specific map operation to the respective input data block to produce intermediate data values, wherein at least a subset of the intermediate data values each comprises a key/value pair, and wherein at least two of the first plurality of the worker processes operate simultaneously so as to perform the application-specific map operation in parallel on distinct, respective input data blocks; a partition operator for processing the produced intermediate data values to produce a plurality of intermediate data sets, wherein each respective intermediate data set includes all key/value pairs for a distinct set of respective keys, and wherein at least one of the respective intermediate data sets includes respective ones of the key/value pairs produced by a plurality of the first plurality of the worker processes; and
each of a second plurality of the worker processes including an application-independent reduce module for retrieving data, the retrieved data comprising at least a subset of the key/value pairs from a respective intermediate data set of the plurality of intermediate data sets and applying an application-specific reduce operation to the retrieved data to produce final output data corresponding to the distinct set of respective keys in the respective intermediate data set of the plurality of intermediate data sets, and wherein at least two of the second plurality of the worker processes operate simultaneously so as to perform the application-specific reduce operation in parallel on multiple respective subsets of the produced intermediate data values.

That's one heck of a detailed claim. Infringement would require some effort; anticipation (every limitation appearing in a single document, arranged in the same manner as the claim) is unlikely.

Re:The usual /. patent question - (1)

Halo1 (136547) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823370)

That's one heck of a detailed claim.

"I don't understand what the hell this all means" is not the same as "detailed".

Infringement would require some effort; anticipation (every limitation appearing in a single document, arranged in the same manner as the claim) is unlikely.

Which part of the claim exactly distinguishes it from how pretty much the every parallelised map-reduce framework probably works? I don't see it.

Re:The usual /. patent question - (1)

ratboy666 (104074) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823484)

"That's one heck of a detailed claim. Infringement would require some effort; anticipation (every limitation appearing in a single document, arranged in the same manner as the claim) is unlikely."

Um...

My "Computer Science" foo may not be strong, but I do see a problem.

Let's begin with the definition of "process" and "interconnected processors". When translated this actually doesn't mean much, especially if using a functional notation. In short, a functional sort has to conflict.

Except of course for the clause:

"and wherein at least two of the second plurality of the worker processes operate simultaneously"

Now, this may, or may not happen. I guess it depends on the implementation of the functional programming system. But, we certainly cannot permit the automatic parallelization of functional algorithms anymore!

Almost any attempt runs afoul of this patent.

Perhaps they should patent (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823820)

the run-on sentence.

Re:The usual /. patent question - (1)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824268)

I'm not sure it would be so hard to infringe. In fact, reading through it, I don't see how a merge sort implemented on multiple processors would not fit that exact description. Merge sort is one of the oldest sorting algorithms in the world, it was invented by Von Neumann himself (I don't know when it was first used in a multiprocessor system, but I would guess no later than the 70s).

Re:The usual /. patent question - (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824454)

That's one heck of a detailed claim. Infringement would require some effort; anticipation (every limitation appearing in a single document, arranged in the same manner as the claim) is unlikely.

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. A slight difference between the device claimed to infringe and the claim, however, doesn't make the device non-infringing. This means that while it should be that prior art leaves broad areas of technology unpatentable, what actually happens is the other way around -- the patent leaves broad areas of prior art unusable, because just about any use of that prior art which hasn't been done exactly that way before is interpreted as infringing.

Re:The usual /. patent question - (1)

laughingskeptic (1004414) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824604)

The software technique is obvious and has been used many times in the last 50 years. The use of key/value pairs for storing state is mundane. The use of sets of key/value pairs to partition work across multiple processing steps is equally mundane. Scaling a parallelizable process to multiple processors is obvious. So what is patentable about this claim?

Working for Google (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823162)

My research are is HPC, and I sometimes have toyed with trying to work for Google. They seemed like something special.

Now that they're pursuing unjustifiable software patents, I'm forced to sadly put Google into the same mental category as Microsoft and IBM. Like the other two companies, Google does some cool stuff, but I wouldn't feel much better about working for Google than I would for IBM or Microsoft.

Sad.

Re:Working for Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30823398)

you are an idiot. every company these days has to have a patent portfolio and google's is the smallest in the industry.

All wrong (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823884)

No, every company doesn't have to have a patent portfolio, many don't and thus Google doesn't have the smallest patent portfolio.

Re:Working for Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30823472)

Sad.

That you base your evaluation of potential employers on a slashdot summary?
Or that you would categorise a company based on one event (the motive for which you are, as the rest of us, blissfully unaware of -- as pointed out by others, perhaps this was done for benign reasons)?

Re:Working for Google (1)

Night64 (1175319) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824116)

Defensive patent portfolio. If you don't now what it is, well, just google it.

MapReduce (2, Informative)

decipher_saint (72686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823246)

I didn't know what MapReduce was so I looked it up:

MapReduce is a software framework introduced by Google to support distributed computing on large data sets on clusters of computers.

Re:MapReduce (1)

leenks (906881) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823650)

Have a medal! Take a bow! (And welcome to 6 years ago)

How it's suppose to work... Take 2. (2, Interesting)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

US patent office workers should be ashamed... (3, Interesting)

BuddaLicious (1628555) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:US patent office workers should be ashamed... (2, Interesting)

Dan Ost (415913) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

MapReduce is cheap (1)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823534)

This article makes reference of MapReduce detractors. Here is my response to them:

With cloud computing pricing following Moore's Law, the cost of distributed brute force is headed to $0. This is preferable to most users than:

a) getting screwed by Oracle and other proprietary DBMS vendors on licensing costs
b) getting screwed by vertically scaled big iron hardware vendors for running enough horsepower for your large Oracle footprint.

I don't recall a more boring day on slashdot... (1)

genghisjahn (1344927) | more than 4 years ago | (#30823610)

At this point I think I'd read Mac Tablet rumors...

!Efficient (1)

BitZtream (692029) | more than 4 years ago | (#30824578)

It works on a large scale with todays available processing setups, but its far from 'efficient' in any sense of the term I consider.

Pyramids were built with (so the theory goes) millions of laborers because thats the only way they could handle such a large scale project. Map reduce is the same thing. On that scale, with todays technology, thats the way we do it.

It works, today, so we use they method, but thats where it ends.

Would you build the pyramids today with a million laborers? No, you'd bring in some heavy equipment and a tiny (relative to the original) team and they'd do it in a couple years or less for FAR FAR less money (even slaves cost money since they don't tend to live long if you never feed or water them.)

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