Would it be possible to get a patent for a data querying language similar to SQL?

And, roughly estimate - how much money and time (from application to approval) would it take?

  • 1
    Is there some inventive aspect to the language or is it just a different syntax? Copyright is the usual method of protecting computer languages. Secondly, are you trying to get patent protection just in the US or internationally?
    – Eric S
    Jan 11, 2021 at 15:15

2 Answers 2


It depends. There are many patents relating to computer languages. The US Classification system has a subclass 717/114 for them. It has deeper sub-classes for object oriented, script, byte code, etc. The definition of 717/114 is

114 . Programming language: This subclass is indented under subclass 100. Subject matter comprising means or steps for using programming language construct or other programming language specific attributes. (1) Note. Subject matter herein includes using extensions of existing programming language for the purpose of adding functionalities not already available in the existing programming language.

You will see from my bold text that these patents are for the use of features of languages. This is a list of the most recent 50 patents issued in 717/114. One example is US 8,819,621 System and method for automated re-architectureing of legacy systems using object oriented language another that relates to a database query system is US 7,873,654 Multimodal natural language query system for processing and analyzing voice and proximity-based queries.

You will not find a patent for a different syntax for expressing the same actions as an existing language.

A frequent estimate for a US patent is $10-20 thousand dollars and about 3 years. It can be done for less and if you pay the USPTO fees for expedited examination it can be done much quicker.

Regarding patents in other locations - It can get very expensive to file and prosecute in many places. It might average another $10-20k per location and most places charge an annual renewal fee while both the application is pending and after it is granted.

The good news is that the U.S is a very large market and you might reasonably forgo the rest of the world for your first successful invention.

  • You might want to point out that if the OP wants patent protection in other countries the price goes up. Potentially a lot.
    – Eric S
    Jan 12, 2021 at 2:55

As an addition to George White's answer, there really needs to be some novelty. Simply creating a reasonably normal database with a functionally similar one with a different query language is probably not patentable. Now if your new database has a feature which is new and different from existing databases, that feature may be patentable but not the entire syntax of the language. Language syntax is typically protected by copyright. Copyright has the advantage of being free and automatic, but is off topic on this site. If you have questions about copyright then the Law SE site would be appropriate.

BTW, I am not a lawyer.

  • An example of an SQL related U.S. patent SQL extended with transient fields for calculation expressions in enhanced data models patents.google.com/patent/US10095758B2
    – George White
    Jan 15, 2021 at 19:14
  • There are some granted U.S. patents where the database itself might not have novel features but the way of getting at the data (via a natural language query) is new. So the novelty is not necessarily a feature of the underlying database. patents.google.com/patent/US9280535B2
    – George White
    Jan 15, 2021 at 19:24
  • @GeorgeWhite Yes the algorithm for parsing a natural language query can be novel and patentable. This still doesn't make the entire syntax of a query language patentable.
    – Eric S
    Jan 15, 2021 at 20:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .