Michael Rothschild, junior in Computer Science who will graduate in Spring'08, came up with the inspiration for his patent while engaged in a co-op with IBM in Fall'06. IBM had wanted some of its development teams to improve database design. Michael tweaked an idea a little with his team leader and over the next month worked on the patent proposal.
In his patent, data is scrambled into new cells anywhere in the table so data is no longer rational. The cells could then be encrypted so hackers who saw the database couldn't really tell if the cells were relational. The patent concept takes relational data, encrypts it, and scrambles it into new cells anywhere in the table so it's no longer relational. The encryption is extremely secure and, in fact, is part of the patent.
It was submitted almost a year ago (in October'06) to the IBM Patent Review Board and was finally submitted to this past June to the USPTO (U.S. Patent Office) after scrutiny by corporate lawyers.
Although IBM did spend tens of thousands of dollars on this patent because of lawyers' fees, Michael also was paid $1500 by the company for his inspirational efforts. He plans to continue his internship with IBM this summer, so additional patents may be forthcoming.