US7028023 seems to be a patent for a data structure (a variation on a linked list with an extra pointer to the item after the next item). Are data structures generally considered patentable, if so, are there other examples like this?

2 Answers 2


Depending on how it is claimed, probably yes. I realize it's a non-definite semi-answer, but the topic, as with all things patent-law, is complex and involves legal theories like "printed matter doctrine".

Very interesting discussion in this article (which also has a few examples):

Andrew Joseph Hollander, "Patenting Computer Data Structures: The Ghost, The Machine, and the Federal Circuit," Duke Law & Technology Review, December 2003

Link: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1102&context=dltr [PDF]


Data structures have been upheld as patentable when they have structural and functional relationships that provide a useful result. Data structures are not generally patentable if they are descriptive or recite a list. The manipulation of ideas is not patentable.

The claims do matter. Compare In re Lowry, 32 F.3d 1579 (Fed Cir 1994) (memory having a pyramidal data structure with structural and functional relationships to provide a useful result) with In re Warmerdam, 33 F.3d 1354 (Fed. Cir. 1994) (robotic collision avoidance description with a claimed method and a bubble data structure that were a mere algorithm and result).

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