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Microsoft Settles With TomTom in Infringement Suit

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 13 comments

News reports today indicate that Microsoft and GPS manufacturer, TomTom have settled a patent dispute the two had been battling in court.

A few years back, Microsoft claimed that Linux violated 235 of its patents, something that has caused considerable stress in the open source community ever since. While Microsoft had yet to make significant movement on the claim, there has always been an underlying concern that the Redmond giant would go on a legal rampage based on the alleged infringements. In February, Microsoft filed a patent infringement lawsuit against TomTom, claiming the company’s products infringe on patents related to Microsoft's FAT32 file system. Five of the patents in dispute related to in-car navigation technologies, while the other three involve file-management techniques.

Despite the fact that TomTom rejected the claims and vowed to “vigorously defend itself," the two companies this week announced that they had settled their dispute. TomTom paid an undisclosed amount to Microsoft and is letting MS license four of its navigation patents for free. The Associated Press reports that TomTom has also agreed to remove certain functionality from its PNDs within two years.

While the speed of this suit, from start to finish, is refreshing when you consider other suits in the tech industry have been going on for nearly an age, it seems a little too close for comfort. The fact that TomTom went from defending itself vigorously to slinking away, all tails between legs, suggests that Microsoft may actually have had a case. Not good news for the open source community.

When last month’s suit was filed and Microsoft Deputy General of Intellectual Property and Licensing, Horacio Gutierrez was asked if this was the start of a broader legal campaign over the alleged Linux violations, Gutierrez said it was not. Nothing to do but bide out time and see how this one turns out.

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  • 0 Hide
    hillarymakesmecry , March 31, 2009 11:45 AM
    Microsoft has the most practiced lawyers in the tech industry.
  • 5 Hide
    Anonymous , March 31, 2009 11:52 AM
    I'm so happy that the EU does not allow patents on pure software!
  • 1 Hide
    SirCrono , March 31, 2009 1:03 PM
    bravuraI'm so happy that the EU does not allow patents on pure software!


    As moronic as the vague US patent system is, that aproach by the EU is almost as stupid.

    I mean, it's stupid to allow a patent that says "way of organizing songs by artist and name" (US) but its also stupid to reject a patent for, let's say, google's searching algorithm
  • 2 Hide
    tenor77 , March 31, 2009 1:09 PM
    Maybe I'm missing something but who do you sue regarding open source software? That's like filing a lawsuit against the Easter Bunny.
  • 3 Hide
    nekatreven , March 31, 2009 1:52 PM
    tenor77Maybe I'm missing something but who do you sue regarding open source software? That's like filing a lawsuit against the Easter Bunny.


    Not really. I'd say its like writing a program to pirate blu-ray and then selling bootleg copies of movies and copies of your program, but giving the source of the program to your paid customers.

    Despite the fact that most distros are free, many enterprise versions are not and neither is their support. Not to mention all of the "appliance OS" products and open sourced based rack-mount hardware appliances that are sold.

    Open source does not mean "money not involved". It isn't any different than any other case of infringement for profit (if MS is right, that is). Although I personally hope MS is full of crap on this one.
  • 1 Hide
    E7130 , March 31, 2009 2:20 PM
    nekatrevenNot really. I'd say its like writing a program to pirate blu-ray and then selling bootleg copies of movies and copies of your program, but giving the source of the program to your paid customers.Despite the fact that most distros are free, many enterprise versions are not and neither is their support. Not to mention all of the "appliance OS" products and open sourced based rack-mount hardware appliances that are sold.Open source does not mean "money not involved". It isn't any different than any other case of infringement for profit (if MS is right, that is). Although I personally hope MS is full of crap on this one.


    True, and many things are based on Open Source including Mac OS X, and they make a lot of money.
  • 0 Hide
    nekatreven , March 31, 2009 2:20 PM
    Quote:
    suggests that Microsoft may actually have had a case. Not good news for the open source community.


    I would agree that they had a case here...but FAT belongs to them! I start to wonder whether their little patent rant was mostly a publicity stunt. Otherwise, why did they take this to litigation (along with others in a similar boat) and ignore all the others who infringe on different things?

    It is possible that this is one of the few cases where their claimed infringement would stand up in court. If they were to file on any of the "weaker" ones and lose, then no one will be worried about them anymore.

    So they may only have a case in areas where it is their stuff brought to linux (ie FAT32, NTFS, etc), but maybe they aren't so strong when it comes to similar linux tech that was reverse engineered or developed in parallel (ie samba). Not to mention, it was my understanding that NT had a lot of Unix code in it, which is why it started to suck less than 95/98.
  • -1 Hide
    jsloan , March 31, 2009 2:37 PM
    nekatrevenNot to mention, it was my understanding that NT had a lot of Unix code in it, which is why it started to suck less than 95/98.


    wrong and wrong, nt did not have any unix code and nt was more stable because was not built on top of dos. it was a native 32-bit os where the kernel did not rely on 16-bit msdos drivers. and yes it was fast and stable. dont' they teach anything in skools these days ;-)
  • 0 Hide
    Greatwalrus , March 31, 2009 3:35 PM
    Wow, Microsoft is making me mad lately.
  • 0 Hide
    grieve , March 31, 2009 5:10 PM
    hillarymakesmecryMicrosoft has the most practiced lawyers in the tech industry.

    No question!
    We read at least one article a week regarding M$ and the courts.
  • 2 Hide
    jhansonxi , March 31, 2009 5:33 PM
    jsloanwrong and wrong, nt did not have any unix code...
    Actually the TCP/IP networking stack was based on BSD.
  • 0 Hide
    Flameout , March 31, 2009 11:35 PM
    no surprise there that tomtom folded

    i would like to find out some of those patents ms r using linux for. i'm guessing it would b some complex software since u can't (or won't bother) put a patent on something so basic that the logic is easily matched.
  • 1 Hide
    neiroatopelcc , April 1, 2009 7:03 AM
    hillarymakesmecryMicrosoft has the most practiced lawyers in the tech industry.

    I believe sun's lawyers are even more experienced. They've done almost nothing except work (the lawyers) for the last many years ...