Imagine I have data describing something, i.e. a person

Name Ander
Id  123123
tel 1313333333
some_other_unusual_id 1212

And I store it in a XML. The structure of the data (4 fields, those ones specifically) is unique and my company only uses it, but the data itself its stored in something common, such as XML. Can this structure be "private", under a license or patented?

If someone get his hands in an example, can they write a Ander_data_XML_read() function in a programming language and release that function under GPL/BSD/MIT license?

  • Apart from the software patents stuff, do you have a good reason to claim an inventive step? If yes, can you add that or something analog if it needs to stay confidential to the question?
    – user18033
    Feb 12, 2018 at 19:09
  • @DonQuiKong Its not for me, I am the user. Imagine a company that makes industrial machinery stores metadata in a very specific format for their machine, but get stored in an XML format file. I want to know that if I have access to that xml, and I make public a function that can read that data, there is any chance that that might be patented and I am breaking any law, or the mere fact that is stored in XML already makes it, by default, accessible, thus I am not in trouble Feb 12, 2018 at 21:07
  • is the data de facto the four fields above? If yes, even though you can't get legally binding opinions here, I can't imagine (literally) any way how that would be protected by a patent.
    – user18033
    Feb 12, 2018 at 21:23
  • @DonQuiKong no it is not, it is metadata from an industrial machine, that I am not going to share here, just in case Feb 12, 2018 at 21:27
  • 1
    maybe law.se, I would bet that 99-100% of those cases are not covered by patents. But there might always be a special constellation .. And I don't know about other laws that might apply
    – user18033
    Feb 12, 2018 at 21:47

2 Answers 2


This kind of thing was previously considered patent eligible (and some examples were found to be novel and non-obvious and granted patents) but they aren't considered patent eligible any longer.

A somewhat well known patent 6,128,415 of Polaroid's - "Device profiles for use in a digital image processing system", that covers a data structure for a profile in a digital camera. It was struck down a few years ago. The first issue now is not novelty or obviousness, but patent eligible subject matter, regardless of how inventive it might be. The PatentlyO blog had an article about this called Data Structure Patent Ineligible.


I am not a lawyer, but my opinion is that the data structure, as you describe it, would not be patentable. One requirement of a patent is inventiveness. I can see nothing inventive about storing data in a common data storage format. I suppose if you use the data or storage format in some unexpected way and gain an unexpected advantage, there might be a patentable aspect, but this is not suggested in your question.

Historically software companies such as Microsoft, who wanted to protect their file formats used undisclosed binary files which were difficult to reverse engineer. This coupled with subtle changes to the formats with new versions of the software made file compatibility for competitors difficult. Another potential avenue to format protection might be copyright, but that is beyond my expertise and the scope of this site.

  • Can the downvoter at least have the courtesy to comment their reasoning?
    – Eric S
    Feb 17, 2018 at 23:46

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