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Has Microsoft's Patent War Against Linux Begun?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the begun-this-clone-war-has dept.

The Courts 644

Glyn Moody writes "Microsoft has filed a suit against TomTom, 'alleging that the in-car navigation company's devices violate eight of its patents — including three that relate to TomTom's implementation of the Linux kernel.' What's interesting is that the intellectual property lawyer behind the move, Horacio Gutierrez, has just been promoted to the rank of corporate vice president at Microsoft. Is this his way of announcing that he intends going on the attack against Linux?"

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Patenting mistakes (5, Informative)

alain94040 (785132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26989845)

3 patents relate to car navigation systems and I can't really tell who's right...

But patent 5579517 [google.com] is very simple for all to understand: it's the infamous way of Windows 95 to offer long file names (32 characters) over DOS, which only allowed 8-character names.

So Microsoft patented the way to store a cross-reference between the nice, readable filename, and the ugly, DOS name.

Does Linux do that? Sure, there might be a FAT driver somewhere... But I hope TomTom doesn't use FAT. If so, Microsoft is abusing the patent process.

And am I the only one to see irony in the fact that Microsoft patented a software defect?

Re:Patenting mistakes (5, Informative)

Computershack (1143409) | more than 5 years ago | (#26989887)

Tomtom does indeed use FAT on the memory cards the maps are stored on.

Re:Patenting mistakes (0, Troll)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#26989985)

Tomtom does indeed use FAT on the memory cards the maps are stored on.

Oh. Well, they deserve the lawsuit then. And a Darwin award.

Re:Patenting mistakes (3, Insightful)

Vince (4999) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990045)

FAT, as the lowest common denominator, is the best choice for flash cards and any other device that has to work in any random Windows, Mac, or Linux box. Otherwise, you'll have to develop and maintain filesystem drivers for your end users.

Re:Patenting mistakes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990413)

FAT .. is the best choice for flash cards and any other device that has to work in any random Windows, Mac, or Linux box

Does that situation apply here? The flash card we're talking about, is used by a GPS unit and .. what else?

Re:Patenting mistakes (3, Insightful)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990557)

And anything you use to backup the GPS unit. Or update it. So, for my own experience (TomTom ONE XL), it has to be supported by FreeBSD, Mac OS X, Linux 2.6, Windows XP and Windows Vista.

What would be the point of a flash card if you couldn't take it out or update the unit anyway.

Re:Patenting mistakes (5, Interesting)

Directrix1 (157787) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990571)

Doesn't this seem like anticompetitive behavior? I think we're needing a new lawsuit.

Re:Patenting mistakes (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990725)

FAT, as the lowest common denominator, is the best choice for flash cards and any other device that has to work in any random Windows, Mac, or Linux box. Otherwise, you'll have to develop and maintain filesystem drivers for your end users

FAT may be the best choice to use but if MS has a patent on it, I don't know if they do or not, and TomTom uses FAT then they are infringing on MS's patent.

Falcon

Re:Patenting mistakes (4, Informative)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990203)

Not really, it's been widely debated that the FAT patent would not hold up on a review....so I wouldn't be so jumpy.

FAT32 patents (4, Insightful)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990003)

Microsoft has patented a bunch of stuff related to FAT32 and has aggressively licensed FAT32. They would have pursued this regardless of the OS underneath the TomTom software.

Re:FAT32 patents (5, Interesting)

downix (84795) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990147)

And where are the lawsuits against Digital Cameras, USB Flash Drives, portable HDD's, the iPod....

Re:FAT32 patents (4, Interesting)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990213)

They're on the way, probably. This is most likely a shot across the bow.

Re:FAT32 patents (5, Informative)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990427)

USB flash drives are normally implemented as a USB disk, not a FAT32 "device", so the FAT32 implementation (and patent concerns) are pushed off to the host that reads/writes to the disk. Digital cameras and iPods could be considered hosts in that sense, and they probably already have FAT32 licensed.

Re:FAT32 patents (4, Funny)

saleenS281 (859657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990457)

You're assuming none of those people have paid for a fat32 license. Microsoft approached the entire CFA about licensing fat32 in 2006.

Re:FAT32 patents (2, Insightful)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990625)

UFDs and portable HDDs don't care what FS you put on them; they're just block devices and don't understand anything FS-level.

To my knowledge the iPhone/iPod no longer uses FAT32.

You might have a point with digital cameras.

Re:FAT32 patents (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990765)

They may well have been licensed.

Re:FAT32 patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990871)

Apple did get a license to use FAT32 on the iPod.

Re:FAT32 patents (1)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990303)

Microsoft is going to lose more in public opinion than they will ever gain from patent licensing, fat32 or otherwise.

Re:FAT32 patents (4, Insightful)

Dolohov (114209) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990451)

What makes you say that? The people who understand software and software patents well enough to understand what's going on already dislike Microsoft. Those who don't aren't going to change their mind over this.

Re:FAT32 patents (5, Insightful)

Threni (635302) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990471)

> What makes you say that? The people who understand software and software patents well enough to understand what's going on already dislike Microsoft. Those who don't
> aren't going to change their mind over this.

Because people who aren't patent/tech nerds but who have tomtoms are going to hear about this and go `what the fuck?`...

Re:FAT32 patents (2, Insightful)

JonStewartMill (1463117) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990813)

You don't need public opinion on your side when you have corporations lining up to buy your products. Microsoft is loathed in the datacenter but adored in the boardroom and this won't change that.

Re:FAT32 patents (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990649)

You assume they are using FAT32. FAT16 supports up to 2 GB. Surely they can stuff the kernel and maps into that while still having enough room for marking favorite locations?
Does FAT32 have other advantages over FAT16?

Re:FAT32 patents (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990843)

Reasonable assumption. The GO 9x0 series - I have a 900 - use a large hard drive, mine came with a 20GB drive.

Re:Patenting mistakes (1)

uberjack (1311219) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990831)

I'm still at a loss to understand why FAT and ASCII still persist in modern society. I mean, I understand backwards compatibility and lack of support, and all that other bullshit that's the reason why we're still running substandard 32-bit bottlenecked systems, but if Apple can cut the cord, why can't the rest of the industry?

The right answer to this (5, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990021)

is to get companies to start using a different FS on memory cards. In particular, it might be useful to pick one of the OSS FS and see it dominate the industry. All it would take is several large companies to decide to change NOW, and the rest would follow.

Re:The right answer to this (5, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990133)

Look at it this way...

Is your data SAFE in a Microsoft format?
What other patents do they have that my not have been asserted in this case?
Is your company future safe with anything other than pure, fully accepted and vetted open source I.P.?
How about your documents, and your ability to manipulate them at will, without encumbrance or fees?

Microsoft isn't the only company that can play the fear game.

Re:The right answer to this (1)

Directrix1 (157787) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990511)

Very true.

Re:The right answer to this (1, Troll)

saleenS281 (859657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990691)

Is your data SAFE in a non-Microsoft format? How's that new version of ReiserFS coming along? You're spreading the very FUD people complain about going the other way.

Re:The right answer to this (1)

FourthAge (1377519) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990157)

That would avoid the two "vfat" patents, but the third patent is 6256642. This could apply to Linux's general strategy for managing Flash memory, no matter which filesystem is used.
http://www.everypatent.com/comp/pat6256642.html [everypatent.com]

I wonder if we will end up with Linux distributions with "vfat" support disabled..

Re:The right answer to this (2, Informative)

computerman413 (1122419) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990191)

The only issue there is getting it to be supported on Windows. Grandma wants to plug her memory card/flash drive into any computer and have it "just work". If M$ doesn't give in and support the OSS FS, it'll be a tough battle.

Re:The right answer to this (3, Insightful)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990393)

Not a problem. Windows uses an Installable File System (IFS) architecture. All that has to happen is that the filesystem driver gets installed with the hardware driver. This can be entirely transparent to the end-user.

Re:The right answer to this (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990493)

Just brainstorming some workarounds here...

I haven't tried plugging in a memory card formatted with ext2fs but does Windows prompt for a driver when it finds an unknown FS or simply ignore it?

One workaround could be to multi-partition the media and expose a 100MB Fat12 partition with a filesystem driver for the other partition.

Or, a digital camera might provide a FS driver in ROM. Along with 'Show as camera', 'Show as mass storage device' it could add the option 'Show as myFS install media'.

Perhaps a little confusing still for Grandma...

Re:The right answer to this (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990579)

Maximum size of FAT12 is ~16mb. Still, if your FS driver doesn't fit in that size, you've got more trouble.

I like the idea.

Re:The right answer to this (3, Informative)

quantum bit (225091) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990669)

I haven't tried plugging in a memory card formatted with ext2fs but does Windows prompt for a driver when it finds an unknown FS or simply ignore it?

No, it shows up as an unknown file system, and if you double click on the drive letter that it gets assigned, it "helpfully" offers to format it for you.

Grandma shouldn't be running Windows (4, Insightful)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990517)

The only issue there is getting it to be supported on Windows. Grandma wants to plug her memory card/flash drive into any computer and have it "just work".

If every OS except Windows is able to

  1. use a modern filesystem for flash and have it "just work"
  2. connect to the internet and not become virus-infected unless the user is an expert

then Windows isn't the right OS for Grandma.

I know Windows still has major market penetration in many segments of society, but Grandmas just aren't where it should be. Get 'er a Mac. Or if you'll install it for her, get her Linux.

Re:The right answer to this (1, Insightful)

Directrix1 (157787) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990537)

Software patents are illegal to begin with. Software is math.

Re:The right answer to this (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990717)

The only issue there is getting it to be supported on Windows.

Well, they do hand out driver/"value added" software CDs like they were AOL.

Re:The right answer to this (2, Insightful)

saleenS281 (859657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990679)

That sounds like a GREAT way to lose all market share overnight. "My old camera can load pictures to my laptop just fine, this new one doesn't work. I'm going to return it!".

If you honestly think MS is going to adopt whatever open source filesystem they choose, you're nuts.

Re:The right answer to this (1)

pseudonomous (1389971) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990869)

There's actually a big problem with this, in that any of the fs-es that you're thinking of (ext*,xfs,jfs,reseir) are probably released under the gpl, which makes them incompatible with any license that MS is likely to use on their kernel, so you won't be able to get fs support in the Windows Kernel, I don't know what the situation with file systems in Windows user-space is, but this is a potential serious obstacle to making any flash device work with Windows, the alternative is to use a BSD licensed FS, like UFS or UFS2, but this is a whole different issue, since there are compatability issue with UFS across different unixes, and FreeBSD (maybe some other BSD) are the only OSes, to reliably implement read/write for UFS2. And you'd pretty much have to convince MS to implement the support, or maintain your own third party userspace file system drivers, which will probably suck in one way or another.

Really, MS could save everyone a lot of trouble by freely licensing fat16/32.

Re:Patenting mistakes (1)

knarf (34928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990121)

I assume TomTom's devices can use SD cards, and those are by default formatted with a FAT filesystem. Of course it is ludicrous for Microsoft to now suddenly worm out of the woodwork and claim patent infringement but that is a) clear from the start and b) besides the point.

Re:Patenting mistakes (3, Informative)

interstellar_donkey (200782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990243)

I think it's a little more simple than that.

1) Is it technology related?
2) Does it work?
3) Does it work better than what we can do?

If you've answered yes to the above questions, Microsoft has the right to sue you.

Re:Patenting mistakes (1)

DancesWithBlowTorch (809750) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990345)

What's interesting is that the intellectual property lawyer behind the move, Horacio Gutierrez, has just been promoted to the rank of corporate vice president at Microsoft. Is this his way of announcing that he intends going on the attack against Linux?"

How is this important? Man gets promoted to lead IP division, proceeds to, well, lead IP division. I don't see why it's newsworthy that Microsoft's bigger court filings get filed by a high-ranking manager. The fact that he has just been promoted need not necessarily have anything to do with this.

Re:Patenting mistakes (2, Interesting)

Mr2cents (323101) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990589)

I think I remember that Microsoft wasn't going to enforce their FAT patents? I read it more than a year ago, and my wetware memory isn't perfect, but I really think they claimed it.. IIRC I even went to their site to verify.

(I could be wrong, but I would really like to hear others with better a recollection than I have..)

Abuse? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990865)

While we may hate them for it, they were legally awarded the patent and they offer licenses to use it.. I don't see that as abuse as that is how the patent process should work.

And now we know why Bill G's house is underground! (2, Funny)

Steve1952 (651150) | more than 5 years ago | (#26989933)

People who live in glass houses not an issue here!

Roundabout patents like these.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26989939)

.. need to die.

now play nice Microsoft. (1)

mcfatboy93 (1363705) | more than 5 years ago | (#26989971)

Now what has Linux ever done to you... Tux has fellings too.

Actual complaint: (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990031)

Skip the ads and get the PDF of the complaint:

http://media.techflash.com/documents/tomtomComplaint.pdf [techflash.com]

A quickie read of it still has me going "WTF!?" a lot. Seriously - they patented such things like:

"Vehicle Computer System with Wireless Connectivity"

"Portable Computing Device-Integrated Appliance"

A quick look at the dates these things were granted, and most gadget geeks' memories should spark something: Most of this crap shouldn't have been patentable in the first place (wish they appended the patents to the complaint, though... it'd make things a lot easier to eyeball and evaluate in one spot).

I'm guessing MSFT is just hoping to force a settlement, so that they can then use it as a cudgel... thing is, Microsoft is using a lot of OSS code nowadays too (IIRC in MSN/Live Messenger, Visual Studio 2008, and etc - linky here [cnet.com] ).

Re:Actual complaint: (3, Funny)

interstellar_donkey (200782) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990279)

That settles it.

I'm going to file a patent for "something cool you can do with technology".

I'll make millions.

Re:Actual complaint: (2, Insightful)

oGMo (379) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990477)

I'm going to file a patent for "something cool you can do with technology".

I'll make millions.

That would require someone do something cool with technology. Who is? Google may be a nice company, but web mail, craptastically feature-light "office apps", and search engines aren't exactly "cool". And who is doing anything else? (No, Apple isn't doing anything cool, either.)

Re:Actual complaint: (1)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990641)

oGMo, you used to know what's cool, but they changed what cool is. Now what you know, isn't cool. And what's cool, seems lame and stupid to you.

Some day, it will happen to the Google and Apple fanbois.

(acknowledgments to Abe Simpson.)

Re:Actual complaint: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990595)

That settles it.

I'm going to file a patent for "something cool you can do with technology".

I'll make millions.

I claim prior art! --The Caveman

If the claim is wide ranging then the prior art allowed to pre-empt it should be too and the claim denied. Something, perhaps, the Foundations should be working on getting before the Supreme Court in a successful manner.

Re:Actual complaint: (2, Insightful)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990495)

> I'm guessing MSFT is just hoping to force a settlement, so that they can then use it as a cudgel...

MSFT is looking for the FUD quotient. Apparently, from their perspective, anything they can do towards casting doubt on OSS is a good thing.

Re:Actual complaint: (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990531)

Maybe not even a cudgel. Maybe just to lend some credence to their FUD that Linux violates 18 gazillion Microsoft patents.

Once again, Horatio, list the patents that Linux is violating or someone, sooner or later, is going to sue Microsoft for defamation. Is that really what you want to happen on your watch?

Re:Actual complaint: (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990597)

this part of the complaint made me LOL :

Microsoft has a long history of technical innovation in the software and hardware products it develops and distributes.

I wonder if they really believe this ?

Re:Actual complaint: (1)

dougisfunny (1200171) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990703)

Their R&D department does do some neat and innovative stuff. Usually they don't distribute those ideas though. They just file patents and make sure no one else can.

Re:Actual complaint: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990677)

Seriously - they patented such things like: "Vehicle Computer System with Wireless Connectivity" "Portable Computing Device-Integrated Appliance"

What really bugs me is that MS never even made an in-car mapping device to my knowledge, or any kind of in-car computer, and Tom-Tom were one of the companies who took a gamble, came up with a good product and marketed it well. But along come Microsoft and try to claim a piece of the action because they acquired the patent for a very generic-sounding description of a device years ago. What benefits do patents serve exactly?

Re:Actual complaint: (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990773)

What really bugs me is that MS never even made an in-car mapping device to my knowledge, or any kind of in-car computer...

They have talked about it. [slashdot.org]

Re:Actual complaint: (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990859)

"Vehicle Computer System with Wireless Connectivity"

Depending on how loosely you can define "computer" and "wireless", this might cover CD radios, airborne (or at least vehicle-based) radar, etc.

Kicked Upstairs (1)

knapper_tech (813569) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990039)

It actually means he has too many friends, but has been isolated from anywhere where he might continue to do damage.

scared (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990047)

they are scared with net books and all these cheap embedded devices.

Linux cannot be stopped... (3, Informative)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990051)

But its growth can be stunned. The lawsuits are not designed to stop Linux; a defendant with sufficiently deep pocket can fend off the attack, EVENTUALLY. The real intend of these suits are to stun the growth of Linux through FUD.

Re:Linux cannot be stopped... (2, Informative)

unitron (5733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990431)

You have been the victim of someone who did not enunciate clearly. The phrase is "stunt growth", not "stun". For instance, for more years than either of us have been around, people have been telling young smokers "Hey kid, don't you know those things will stunt your growth?".

Re:Linux cannot be stopped... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990509)

He could be the victim of a faulty t key.

Re:Linux cannot be stopped... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990743)

He could be the victim of a faulty t key.

Right. Because the word "stun" does not have a 't' in it.

They will face my rage! (2, Insightful)

linhares (1241614) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990059)

This is to be expected, as the follow the RIAA MPAA desperation road. And a giant backlash against ms, of course.

Netbooks are a serious threat to them, and they know it. To follow the netbooks will be larger machines with limited processing for the avg joes out there.

On a personal note, I find it very delightful that a company that Embraced, Enhanced, Extinguished, might be brought down by a tiny, cheap machine called EEE.

Microsoft's last line of defense (4, Insightful)

dave562 (969951) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990073)

I know that it's always silly to try to predict the future, but here I go none the less. For the most part, all of the core computing applications have already been developed. Unless business processes change significantly, there are only so many systems that a company will ever need to deploy. There will be word processing applications, spreadsheets, databases, webpages, file servers, print servers and a slew of other devices. However the core of the network and the computing environment will remain rather static. Over the last decade, Microsoft developed a lot of core business applications in the form of Windows, Windows Server, Office and Exchange. As the room for innovation in the IT world shrinks, Microsoft will have to fall back to the patent portfolio. If their lawyers were smart, they patented every single technology that they could with the foreknowledge that sooner or later, someone else would want to develop software to do the same thing.

I think we are going to see Microsoft leveraging their patents more and more aggressively as time goes on. They have poured untold billions of dollars in R&D. It seems to me like they need to pursue patent litigation to generate some sort of ROI on all those R&D dollars.

Re:Microsoft's last line of defense (4, Insightful)

James Youngman (3732) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990173)

For the most part, all of the core computing applications have already been developed.

Record that, and come back to read it in 20 years. Or wait 10 years and ask your information agent to find it for you.

Re:Microsoft's last line of defense (1)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990367)

Ok lets reverse that think back 10 or 20 years ago and what has truly been innovated today? and is not just an evolution of existing software taking advantage of faster and more widespread hardware?

Re:Microsoft's last line of defense (1)

againjj (1132651) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990741)

The web.

Re:Microsoft's last line of defense (2, Insightful)

Cajun Hell (725246) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990759)

and is not just an evolution of existing software taking advantage of faster and more widespread hardware?

You're going to say the nanotech revolution (if it ever happens) wasn't innovative, because it was just a hardware upgrade. :(

Why are there so many bitter ancient geezers on /.?

Re:Microsoft's last line of defense (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990561)

Consider a theoretical patent of, "Returning queried information from a database". Imagine how many applications have been developed that use that methodology. Every post displayed on Slashdot uses that. Every email shown in Gmail uses that. Just about any information presented on the Internet uses some iteration of that basic idea.

If Microsoft has just a small handful of core computing patents like that, they are set for as long as people are using computers to organize and share their data.

I would challenge this... (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990179)

As the room for innovation in the IT world shrinks, Microsoft will have to fall back to the patent portfolio

You think the room for innovation in the IT world shrinks. It doesn't shrink. If anything, there's more room for innovation than ever as more people recognize the value of software. It's just that, its a lot harder to understand where to innovate than it was before, but the rewards are there.

Microsoft's problem isn't so much that there's no more room to innovate then, its that, its not as sure as where to go as it was in the past. Linux shows that you can't just rest on the complexity of a product and hope people can't figure out how to make it. Even if every single Microsoft patent holds, that basically means the core of their business expires within a decade, and a lot of it has expired already.

Even though patents exist, even though they exist for what some may say too long, they are only a delay against the inevitable. If Microsoft does not leverage their know-how into new products and new services, successfully, reinventing its own core technologies and assumptions, then it will die.

Re:I would challenge this... (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990425)

Even if every single Microsoft patent holds, that basically means the core of their business expires within a decade, and a lot of it has expired already.

Yeah, but I'd watch for the Democrat-majority congress and along with the new Democrat administration to Bono-ize patent terms just as was done for copyright terms. If they'll do it for Disney, why not for the US' largest OS vendor Microsoft?

Strat

Re:Microsoft's last line of defense (4, Insightful)

Penguinisto (415985) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990299)

Just one problem: They risk stepping on the toes of folks like IBM, Apple (who has more cash in the bank right now than Microsoft does), and other biggies that can make life very, very hard for MSFT.

Also, the payouts aren't as fast or as big as you would think: Sure, a small corp could/would cave in and settle almost immediately, and enough of them would provide an ongoing income for awhile. That said, doing so would force a lot of up-and-comers to simply abandon as much of MSFT as possible, just to avoid potential conflict.

Look at the GIF/LZH patent as an example - the whole damned thing mostly withered and died because Unisys was too desperate and stupid to realize that they could have taken a better approach. World+dog simply avoided using compressed GIFs, instead turning to other tech to get the job done.

I can see people start to do the same things with .NET, ASP, and more, if MSFT becomes an aggressive RIAA-style extortion machine.

To mangle a well-worn phrase: Nowadays, application developers see patent lawsuits as damage, and tries to route around them.

(I can also see other corps banding together and assaulting MSFT just out of preventative self-defense, too... see also SCO's troubles as a model.)

/P

Re:Microsoft's last line of defense (2, Interesting)

Trogre (513942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990529)

World+dog simply avoided using compressed GIFs, instead turning to other tech to get the job done.

...World+dog-Slashdot, that is :p

Re:Microsoft's last line of defense (1)

Lord Bitman (95493) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990357)

if you think the "core" of IT has evolved as far as it can go, you're wrong. Sure, it's all unimplemented ideas from 1987 and earlier, but they're still out there

Re:Microsoft's last line of defense (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990801)

Just for the sake of discussion, where do you see the evolution going? Somewhat related, what evolution have you seen in the last ten years that wasn't just an incremental advance on already established technology? Or maybe not ten years, but twenty years, going back to the late-1980s / early 1990s.

shame on them (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990097)

they should be ashamed of themselves. so typical of a company with so great a lack of morals, principles, ethics, pride, and imagination. so typical of a behemoth gigacorporation to pick on someone too small to adequately defend themselves. instead of elevating themselves they wish to achieve the same relative effect by pushing everyone else down. they should be so ashamed of themselves that they should shut down the whole company on the grounds that all its shareholders, directors, officers, and employees are too ashamed to show their face in public or be seen walking into the company's facility. of course i'm talking about the company that makes those hard things on the ends of shoelaces.

TomTom not exactly a historically good actor... (5, Informative)

morganew (194299) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990153)

TomTom were found to be a gpl violator [gpl-violations.org] in '04, sued Garmin in '07 and Toyota in '08 [gbpatent.com] for infringing TomTom patents, and have a very restrictive EULA [tomtom.com] .

Re:TomTom not exactly a historically good actor... (3, Informative)

ianare (1132971) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990475)

They don't seem any worse than any other corporation.

Looking at the EULA, it's really only the US version that has a lot of the typical bullshit, the European versions are much saner. Can't really blame them for doing the same things all other companies operating in the US are allowed to do.

And from the gpl-violations page (which was resolved in a friendly manner) :

As part of the agreement, TomTom will show it's appreciation of the Free Software and technology enthusiast movement by making a significant donation to the Chaos Computer Club (http://www.ccc.de/).

So they may not be exactly saintly, but don't seem overtly evil ... and compared to Microsoft ? Come on !!

Re:TomTom not exactly a historically good actor... (0, Troll)

saleenS281 (859657) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990491)

But... but... but... they use linux! That means they're the good guys and MS is bad. Even if they really ARE infringing on MS's patents.

Re:TomTom not exactly a historically good actor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990793)

As long as they haven't 'tivoized' their use of linux, they are the good guys.

Patent Abuse (4, Insightful)

Demonantis (1340557) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990155)

A patent is supposed to protect a commercial product from being copied by the market. This is to promote people to share their ideas and collaborate while protecting the inventor. Patenting software concepts is counter intuitive to this process where no ingenuity of solving a problem is demonstrated. A lot of the patents that make it though now a days are really abusive of the protection and way to generalized to the technology they use.

This has been foreshadowed for years (2, Insightful)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990163)

Microsoft has been totally consistent in their rants on this topic. They are all for "Open Source" so long as they get a per copy patent royalty when it gets deployed in a shipping product. Because nobody can do anything without infringing their all encompassing patent portfolio. And they are probably right. And Linux is infringing patents held by every other tech company. Normally they just cross license between each other and little money actually changes hands, it is just a gate keeping new competitors without patents of their own to cross license at a disadvantage. Which is exactly where Linux is.

The patent system needs to be fixed. But every large company has billions invested in the current broken system AND, as noted above, depends on patents to keep new unexpected competitors from springing up.

Re:This has been foreshadowed for years (4, Insightful)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990289)

Microsoft will no doubt tread lightly because IBM and others will not tolerate them taking Linux head on... Hence, why they are trying to go around the edges. Their hope, I am assuming, is classic FUD...

Meaning, in no way will Microsoft ever be able to take on Linux directly.... Doing so would force the hand of IBM to get involved because they have much at stake...

Re:This has been foreshadowed for years (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990403)

Meaning, in no way will Microsoft ever be able to take on Linux directly.... Doing so would force the hand of IBM to get involved because they have much at stake...

In one corner we have Horacio Gutierrez, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft. In the other corner we have ... the Nazgul.

Ballmer isn't exactly a genius but he's not that stupid.

Re:This has been foreshadowed for years (5, Interesting)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990665)

> Meaning, in no way will Microsoft ever be able to take on Linux directly....

Which they have no intention of doing, for exactly the reasons you mention. They don't have to. IBM can do what it wants with Linux, safe in the knowledge they are one of the companies with a patent portfolio. Tom Tom on the other hand....

Which is the message they want to send. Only players are allowed to play in the big leagues. If Tom Tom wants to enter the game they must license their IP from someone with a patent portfolio. Somebody like Novell or even IBM. But thinking one can just download Linux and enter the arena without a major defender is going to be shown as too dangerous for VC money, large instituitions, etc. At which point the major potential for market disruption implied by Linux, Open Source, Free Software, etc. is gone. This is just the warning shot. If companies like ASUS and Acer don't get the message expect an example to be made of one of the netbook makers soon.

STOP (-1, Offtopic)

CSHARP123 (904951) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990199)

We need to stop this socialist OS called Linux. How dare companies use this in their devices in this economy. People work for free to create this OS and where is the contribution to society. MS on the other hand should be encouraged to sue companies like RedHat, IBM etc.
Ballmer the saviour of capitalism is boon to IT world. GO BALLMER
Stop Tom Toming about MS suing Tom Tom, damn european socialists might do something.

Software patents (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990209)

What I see mentioned in the MS paper looks like some Infamous US Software Patents.

This'll probably mean TomTom will (have to) retract from the US market and leave some 300 million people to find their ways using dead tree maps.

I use a TomTom myself and find it a great little Linux device but I'm less than impressed with the way they treat the Linux community, for example you can only update via a Windows application that doesn't even run in wine.

Linking to a blog about the article...? (2, Interesting)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990225)

Why is the third link in the summary to a blog about the first link? Ok so the first link is the story itself then the third one which only has three statements of thought:

It's been in the air for ages, and now it's happening:

/*He copies in some summary sentences from the article. */

Presumably those are the three that relate to Linux, in which case this is likely to have broader implications than just the in-car navigation market.

Here's a nice statement of how Microsoft views all this:

/* He then posts a small quote from the first article. */

In other words, Microsoft "respects and appreciates" open source until it actually starts to replace Microsoft's offerings, in which case the charming smile is replaced with the shark's grimace.

It may not be a coincidence that Gutierrez has just been promoted to the rank of corporate vice president: could this legal action be his way of announcing the direction he and Microsoft will now take in the battle against Linux?

Is someone trying to get page hits here? What's the "direct hits to my blog" form of Slashvertisement?

Making their own laws? (2, Insightful)

mahohmei (540475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990273)

Looking at the pdf, it looks like Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, Mapquest, et al. are infringing on Microsoft's patent too.

When does Ford sue GM for making vehicles?

shit dude (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990307)

better gird your loins. Anybody know the website number?

The 3 patents (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990313)

The patents that are not car-GPS-specific have to deal with: short filenames, Flash filesystems, and GUI objects.

Short filenames doesn't seem like a "Linux" issue to me since Linux doesn't do this. If Linux does have a driver that does this, then there may be some validity toward their claims. Perhaps that driver should be removed from Linux.

Linux isn't really about Flash file systems, but obviously it contains drivers that do this. Some penguin out there who has passed the bar should chime in on this one.

The final issue is GUI objects. How MS got a patent on this one befuddles me. Obviously, Xerox/Parc beat them to this one. Why doesn't anyone overturn this patent?

Re:The 3 patents (2, Informative)

julesh (229690) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990507)

Short filenames doesn't seem like a "Linux" issue to me since Linux doesn't do this. If Linux does have a driver that does this, then there may be some validity toward their claims. Perhaps that driver should be removed from Linux.

Linux's FAT32 driver does this. Removing the FAT32 driver would cause a lot of interoperability problems that would make Linux unsuitable for huge volumes of applications, e.g. accessing pictures stored on digital cameras (off the top of my head). TomTom needs this driver because they store the system on an SD card with the aim that systems can be upgraded/fixed by directly accessing the filesystem from a Windows PC, so they have to use either FAT32 or NTFS, and as Linux's support of NTFS is essentially a joke FAT32 is the only real option, therefore distributing a version without the offending driver compiled in is not an option for them.

Has Microsoft's Patent War Against Linux Begun? (1)

vmahrra (55934) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990369)

> Has Microsoft's Patent War Against Linux Begun?

That's patently not true!

File Systems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26990449)

The first two patents are related to fat and long file names. They should expire in a couple of years, so I wouldn't worry too much.

The file system on flash seems obvious to me, but just in case I've got the following ideas.

a file system on any device, memory, or storage media that can store data.

a manager to manage storage on any device, memory, or storage media that can store data

a manager to make any character, bit, multi-bit, multi-character, trinary bit, multi-trinary bit, or other storage device with a minimal storage element smaller than a filesystem block appear as an appropriate sized block device to a file system.

a manager to make a storage device with blocks larger than a file system block appear as a device with appropriate sized blocks to a file system.

a manager to make a storage media with minimal storage bit that is not a factor of the file system block appear as a storage media with appropriate size blocks for the file system.

a character based filesystem in stead of a block based file system.

A single bit based file system.

a small block based filesystem.

Using one or more of the above in concert to put access a storage media with a file system.

I think all of those are obvious, but they should provide prior art at least as of today.

No problem, absolutely no problem (1)

JamesP (688957) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990737)

Just wait for the truckload of legal papers from IBM, Google, etc tomorrow morning in MS's curb.

But they promised.. (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990835)

But Microsoft promised they wouldn't use their growing portfolio of patents this way.. They wouldn't lie to me would they?

And if you believed them, or are surprised, you are a fool. ( tho i wasn't expecting them to start for another year or two )

Haiku and ReactOS (0, Offtopic)

PipingSnail (1112161) | more than 5 years ago | (#26990863)

Roll on Haiku finally getting an ISO of their OS ready. Then real work on getting an Ubunutu equivalent of Haiku can start. Haiku has been non-ISO for too long, but recent developments (native GCC/G++ 4.0) mean that may end soon.

Ditto for ReactOS.

Then issues like this can go away (I hope).

For the record: I make my living writing software for MS operating systems. MSDN is awesome and makes OSDN look pathetic. But this type of thing by Microsoft only works against them, so I wish for a solution that sidesteps that mentality, hence Haiku and ReactOS.

Software patents should be abolished - compete on the quality of implementation.

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