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See this document

This document described storing a tree data structure as xml for querying and processing. This is trivial computer science. How did this patent get approved?

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    You can't swing a virtual cat without hitting a dozen trivial, obvious, and patented software algorithms. Our digital environment only functions because the vast majority of them are routinely ignored. – Ask About Monica Mar 7 '18 at 18:58
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It's not software; it's a "method," which is a type of process.

Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof may obtain a patent therefor, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.

35 USC §101

(Software would be a particular program employing this process, written in a particular programming language and run on a particular hardware platform.)

To be protected by patent, an invention must be novel and non-obvious. The patent office doesn't get too deeply into questions of obviousness, however; these will come up when a patent's validity is challenged, for example in court, generally in response to an accusation of patent infringement.

If you believe the invention is obvious, and that you could prove that in a court of law, you can use the invention secure in the knowledge that you will prevail when IBM comes after you for patent infringement. If you don't have very deep pockets, however, you might want to think twice about pursuing that strategy.

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    To expand on what phoog said about "The patent office doesn't get too deeply into questions of obviousness..." you should note that while the PO might not look too deep, you should (as the filer of a new patent) because anytime your "software method" invention stumbles over an existing -- patented or not -- algorithm you could find that you patent becomes easily invalidated. This is one reason why prior art searches must be exhaustive. – O.M.Y. May 5 '18 at 16:23
  • "Software would be a particular program employing this process, written in a particular programming language and run on a particular hardware platform." So, would a software employing this process be affected in any form by this patent? – Trilarion May 9 at 11:39
  • @Trilarion Yes. The creator of the software would need a license from the patent holder. Without such a license, the creator could be liable for damages. Of course, during the course of the suit, the patent might be invalidated (see kbelder's comment about "trivial, obvious, and patented software algorithms"), in which case the creator of the software would not owe damages, but would be out of pocket for legal fees. The question probably deserves to be asked separately. – phoog May 9 at 14:12
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The U.S. Patent office has essentially ZERO expertise in software. In fact, software development does nothing to get you into the patent bar. The patent office routinely grants patents to non-original software ideas or non-patentable subject matter wrapped in gobbledygook.

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