SAP patent not inventive enough to get legal protection, judge rules

Teradata also sees wings clipped in ongoing battle with German ERP giant

An SAP patent was not "inventive enough" to be legally binding, according to a US judge in an intellectual property case which also saw Teradata's claim in the dispute reduced.

The federal judge in California last week trimmed down claims from both sides of an ongoing dispute over a joint venture the firms entered into back in 2008.

Teradata alleged that the German software company used the JV to try to access the US company's intellectual property and build its HANA in-memory database, which it would try to get its customers to use, according to a 2018 filing at the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

Teradata alleged that SAP's theft of intellectual property enabled it to speed the release of HANA. In 2019, SAP counter-claimed with allegations that Teradata had infringed five of its patents. SAP's patent infringement counterclaims will be heard at a jury trial scheduled for the end of January 2022.

In a redacted opinion handed down on 8 November [PDF], Judge William Orrick found that one of SAP's patents, issued in 2004, was not sufficiently inventive to merit the legal protection of a patent, according to the standards set out in a 2014 Supreme Court precedent.

"Because the claim elements simply apply the abstract idea of organizing information into logical groups using well-understood, routine, and conventional activities previously known to the industry, the claims do not make the abstract idea patent eligible. There is no inventive concept that provides something more than the abstract idea itself," Judge Orrick wrote.

Judge Orrick noted that SAP had neglected to assert what inventive concept its patent covered in the briefings. As a result, the number of patent infringements SAP alleged against Teradata was cut from five to three.

In 2018, SAP failed to have a copyright infringement and antitrust lawsuit lodged against it by Teradata thrown out.

But the case is not all going Teradata's way. The US firm failed to convince the judge it had provided enough notice about the trade secrets in the joint venture.

"Teradata's technical trade secret claims fail because it failed to protect the confidentiality of its information," he wrote.

While the case will continue, Teradata filed a related patent infringement suit against SAP in the same court last year. Meanwhile, in a German federal court, SAP is suing Teradata over patent infringement. Teradata has been contacted for comment.

SAP told us: "SAP believes the court came to the right conclusions on Teradata's claims and is pleased with the ruling." ®

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