Is Microsoft attempting to patent CMDB?

A recent patent application appears to indicate that Microsoft is applying to patent CMDB. This issue is not attracting the outrage that it ought to. Next time you see your Microsoft rep, ask him/her WTF they are up to. And if you get anything like a rational answer, post it here so we can all understand.
I find this so hard to believe that I am putting it out there for you readers to help confirm or deny. Perhaps I should find it easy to accept given Microsoft’s history in the patent arena.

A reader drew my attention to a recent patent application (20060004875) for “CMDB schema” by Anthony Baron and others. The assignee for the patent is Microsoft, their employer.

The same guys are responsible for attempting to patent (20060080656) patch management on behalf of Microsoft too.

And finally, as far as I can discern through the blizzard of legalese, Microsoft (via Baron and others) are also busily attempting to patent (20060064486) the ITIL ICT Operations book or normal ICT operations with a standard Deming cycle. Just amazing.

If Microsoft gets sick of being called the source of all evil, they should stop behaving like it. [Of course Microsoft are not the only ones playing these silly games. Take a look what BMC are up to ].

Reading these patent applications, they look to me to be vexatious and disingenuous. They are worded so as to seem a precise and complicated definition to one not understanding the details of the subject, but are in fact pretty broad ambit claims.

The patch management one sounds to me like every patch or software install packaging mechanism I ever saw, but let’s focus on the CMDB one.

Once again it is hidden in complex wording but the claim seems pretty simple. They are patenting:

  1. the idea that the CIs are in one table and their attributes are in another: sounds like every implementation of an object model in a relational database to me
  2. the idea that relationships are in a separate table to the CIs: when I started out, we called this “third normal form” and it was pretty standard database design. Apparently now it is a radically new concept deserving of patent
  3. the idea that another table stores “a default list of approvers for changes”: this is less clear but it sounds to me like they want to patent aspects of ordinary change workflow
  4. the idea that another table stores “dependencies between requested changes”: likewise more opaque but sounds like normal release management

Now I am not a lawyer [said with pride] but this sounds like any CMDB schema that stores data in multiple tables according to normal object-to-relational and relational-normalisation principles is infringing patent, as is any change workflow that assigns default approvers or release tool that stores change dependencies.

Remember you read it here first that Mickeysoft are ideally placed to “invade Poland”: they could blitzkrieg in and take ISO20000 and ITIL out in one fell swoop simply by upgrading the MOF documentation to ISO20000 and doing a deal with itSMF USA to back it. They don’t have to make it open content. ITIL isn’t open content. Microsoft can keep a MOF documentation of ISO20000 practices as locked up as OGC does ITIL. Having a patent on CMDB wouldn’t hurt. It would be like France having already surrendered. And they already have MOF gaining ground, which is akin to having the king of your main opponent on your side.

One would hope that “prior art” will kill all this nonsense stone dead, but the US patent system is in such a parlous state (mostly by allowing patents on methods, but more generally by the meddling of the US’s prime pestilence: lawyers) that anything could happen.

My best-case hope is that Microsoft employees get bonused on patent applications and these guys are just busy “writing themselves a Winnebago”*, but I doubt it.

Help me out here readers: have I interpreted this correctly? What is the current status of these claims? And what is the prognosis?

*from a Dilbert comic (before I hear from Scott’s lawyers)


Microsoft is worse than ITIL?

The Vendor and British ITIL cabal are busy redefining their closed, theoretical "framework" to include everything under the sun. And, they seem to be doing it for the express purpose of advancing the vendors sales performance.

Why would Microsoft be more challenging than are they? Your comment implies that Microsoft is more avaricious than HP, IBM, CA or BMC. You don't really believe that, do you? I would submit that any such suggestion is either astoundingly naive or indicates an anti-Microsoft bias.

ITIL went from ignoring the two-thirds of the IT budget that is purchased from vendors, and a pitiful financial mini-note, to, with v.3, taking over procurement and all negotiations. Poorly, of course.

What next? CRM and ERP are soon to be part of ITIL because these same vendors sell that software too?

"ITIL went from ignoring the

"ITIL went from ignoring the two-thirds of the IT budget that is purchased from vendors, and a pitiful financial mini-note, to, with v.3, taking over procurement and all negotiations. Poorly, of course."

This is not clear. Please elaborate.

I've seen some of the new material but no more than 1/5th. I've come across no vendor bias and of the four tool vendors you mention, I can find evidence of only one involved in authoring V3.

Itil its just B.S right? & implemented by idiots!

Im a techie, through n through.

I have seen Itil being implemented and Service 'improved' to the point of
no one competent on the helpdesk tha knows anything about the local set-ups. So they cant answer problems. Great.

Axing staff so the remaining cant cope with the workload.

Why is it we have to always put up with the non IT implementing impossible target based systems on techies that just want to do their jobs?

Service is a thing of the past fellas.

But im afraid anyone can come up with a good framework, (even better if you're IT literate and actually know what you're up to)

Common sense has taken a leap out of the window.

Im not convinced by it.

Whens the next fad?

How secure is your technical career?


You have obviously been on the receiving end of an unsatisfactory ITIL implementation. You have my sympathies. There are plenty of them but not all of them are that way.

I cannot agree that service is a thing of the past, or indeed that ITIL is B.S.

There are three kinds of people in this world:
the inner circle that make things happen
The ring around them that watch things happen
The largest outer circle who say "WTF happened?"

May I suggest you are not reading the winds of change in the IT industry. If you choose to remain a "techie through and through" then I put it to you that you are not serving yourself or your family. I refer you to a recent article "How secure is your IT technical career?". You can choose to throw rocks or you can choose to change with the industry. ITIL may disappear but service management is here to stay: I recommend you get with it.

I have replied to this on the blog

Thanks for a most provocative comment. I have replied to this on the blog

I thought I was cynical

I think ITIL 3 is set to be the least anglo centric version ever, there is certainly no sign of a British Cabal. Those who are familiar with the real history of ITIL will know there has actually long been a big Dutch and North American influence. I have done work indirectly with Microsoft via other ITIL vendors and I do think they and IBM sometimes give themselves more credit than they should for their involvement in it's development (On the other hand I highly rate Micosoft's Source Book for the HelpDesk which is now out of print but was a jolly* good book)

Having read the draft of ITIL 3 I can't see much vendor bias, either.

* Sorry for the very British term. BTW, we did invent ITIL, you know, so perhaps deserve some credit.

Patent on "How to change a light bulb"

Changing a light bulb is a process which I can describe. So why shouldn't I go ahead and try getting a patent on it? Everybody has to pay me money to fix their lighting problems....

I must say US Patent office is the best place for real world sarcasm. But I must admit they seem to be either spending a hell of a lot of money or are organized quite well to keep up with all those nonsense patents they are receiving.

Lets all put up an open source IT Service Management framework with real best practice.

Prior art

Most of that stuff gets seen off by the principle of "prior art": your patent must be original. if it has been done before and you aren't doing anything new, you can't patent it. MS are trying to say (I think) that the concept of storing stuff in separate tables instead of columns in one table is a radical new concept for CMDBs.

Original Concepts?

Yes, but MS description of a "radical new CMDB" is obviously just as "radical & new" as my description for changing a light bulb. Thanks for sharing this, I do need a joke or two to tell in a few upcoming meetings ;-).

this is outrageous

This is outrageous. I will be further analyzing. The core of it is a completely generic data model, well established industry art for decades.

I have been pointing out the evils of the overly generalized CMDB data schema for some time now starting here:


With you on the case

Thanks Charlie. With you on the case I know we'll get a rational and reliable analysis. Looking forward to your feedback

on holiday

It will be a bit, I am on holiday... happiness to you and yours.


This might be a good thing

Where would we be if Microsoft didn't step in and help standardize things?

The needle on my sarcasm

The needle on my sarcasm detector just wrapped round its end stop.

How about your outrage

How about your outrage detector?

Can these ******s get away with this? Or is it vexacious?

Not outraged

Well it's cheeky that's for sure. Maybe I'm just annoyed that I didn't think of doing it first? It's vexatious in the sense of annoying I suppose but I doubt if it's vexatious in the legal sense. (I'm not a lawyer though).

It's interesting (maybe) that the patent application is classified in 707/200, which is database maintenace rather than 707/100, database schema.

There are thousands of existing patents for schema so it's hard to imagine they are all brilliant flashes of invention.

Hello! is there a patent lawyer in the house?

So it may be some sort of defensive tactic in case someone actually copies their product? They can't be too serious about it if they are so sloppy in categorising it?

Hello! is there a patent lawyer in the house?

Did they ? That's a first.

Did they ? That's a first. They do not standardize things, they widespread their own way of doing things and then people are forced into accepting them. That's an all different thing. They do however participate more and more in standard committee. But if all that is a front for patent application to be able then to sweep the carpet under everybody else's feet, then ...

The only thing Microsoft standarise is their technique for corru

Oh puhhleeese!!! The only thing Microsoft standarise is their technique for corrupting public standards. Name one "standard" that Microsoft is responsible for that isn't a proprietary product of Microsoft: Windows, VB, .NET.

Name one public standard that Microsoft have adopted without subtly bastardising it so theirs is incompatible: MS-SQL, LDAP, ITIL....

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