The European Patent Office considered the generation of database queries from database independent selection conditions technical. Here are the practical takeaways from the decision T 1500/08 (Generation of database queries/UBS) of November 4, 2011 of Technical Board of Appeal 3.5.01:
The application underlying the present decision relates to the automatic generation of search queries (cf. EP 1 566 745 A1, para. ). Oftentimes, search requests including selection conditions have a database independent format and must therefore be translated into a database specific query language that can be understood by the used database server (cf. EP 1 566 745 A1, para. ). Hence, there is a need for a mechanism for efficiently and flexibly transforming a database independent search request into a database specific query (cf. EP 1 566 745 A1, para. ). This could be achieved by means of placeholders that could be replaced by specific operators included in the query strings (cf. EP 1 566 745 A1, paras.  and ).
Fig. 1 of EP 1 566 745 A1.
Claim 1 (auxiliary request 2)
1. A method of generating a database query from a database independent search request, comprising the steps performed by a computer component (14)
– providing in a storage device (23) or via access to a storage device (23) one or more predefined query strings in a database specific query language format, wherein the predefined query strings include one or more first place-holders (#) that are substitutes for database specific selection operators and one or more second placeholders (@xyz) that are substitutes for selection values;
– receiving a search request in a database independent format, the search request specifying at least one selection condition;
– deriving, on an application layer (14), one or more database specific selection operators from the at least one selection condition specified in the search request; and one or more database specific selection values (@abc) from the search request taking into account respective selection operators specified in the search request;
– substituting, on the application layer (14), a first placeholder (#) in one or more of the predefined query strings with at least one previously derived database specific selection operator when generating the database query, wherein the second placeholders that substitute the selection values remain in the database query;
– transferring the selection values and the database query with substituted first placeholders (#) but
non-substituted second placeholders (@xyz) to a database server (18); and
– substituting, by the database server (18), the second placeholders with the appropriate selection values when generating the final database query.
Is it patentable?
The first instance examining division rejected the present application due to lack of inventive step. During the the appeal proceedings, the applicant filed a main request as well as two auxiliary requests. The main request as well as auxiliary request 1 were rejected by the Board of appeal due to lack of novelty (main request) and lack of inventive step (auxiliary request 2).
However, concerning claim 1 of auxiliary request 2, the Board in charge outlined:
5.7 According to D2, all substitutions are made before the query is sent to the database server.
5.8 The question of inventive step, therefore, comes down to this: would it have been obvious to the skilled person to modify the teaching of D2 so that only the operators were substituted before transmission to the database server?
Hence, as a next step, the Board in charge derived the technical effect as follows from the above-given distinguishing feature:
5.9 The technical effect is that, sometimes, a previous search can be reused by the database server (application as published, paragraph 0023). The appellant explained, during oral proceedings, that the database server, when processing searches in which only selection values (but not fields or operators) change, can re-use some of the previous results.
While the Board in charge considered the claimed subject-matter technical, it further argued that it would be rendered-obvious by the cited prior art and thus dismissed the appeal.
You can read the whole decision here: T 1500/08 (Generation of database queries/UBS) of November 4, 2011.
Patrick is a European patent attorney at BARDEHLE PAGENBERG. He specializes in software patents in Europe both from a prosecution and litigation point of view.