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OIN Posts Details of Microsoft's Anti-Tom Tom Patents

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the does-this-filesystem-make-me-look-fat dept.

Patents 65

number6x writes "LinuxDevices.com is reporting that the Open Invention Network has posted the details of three of the eight patents used by Microsoft in the Tom Tom suit (which Tom Tom settled last month), asking the community for prior art. These patents cover aspects of the FAT file system. You can find them on Post-Issue.org — see numbers 5579517, 5758352, and 6256642. OIN CEO Keith Bergelt believes that these three patents are of tenuous validity and will probably not survive a review. Bergelt believes that there's a good chance that the USPTO may well invalidate them before the end of the year.

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first post (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27752439)

first post

Re:first post (2, Funny)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27754453)

Silly boy, there is clearly Prior Use of that here on Slashdot.

Indicative of the brokenness of the system (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27752471)

If a few lay-men webanaughts can find prior art in patents that were enough to force a company to settle out of court (for fear of legislation), then clearly the system is so completely broken that I fear it cannot be repaired.

Here is my question: Why should I spend the money that I get from my 9-5 job to start up a new company if a few lazy lawyers can bring me to court and sue me without having any real legal ground? I might as well not bring innovation to the stage and save myself the hassle.

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (5, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27752619)

Clearly, you should quit your 9-5 job and become a lawyer.

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27753423)

Clearly, you should quit your 9-5 job and become a lawyer.

Definitely. 9-9, 5-7 days a week, are much better hours: they help keep lawyers from frivolities such as having a life.

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (1)

oever (233119) | more than 5 years ago | (#27756695)

or an actor [alobbs.com]

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27752643)

If a few lay-men webanaughts can find prior art in patents that were enough to force a company to settle out of court (for fear of legislation), then clearly the system is so completely broken that I fear it cannot be repaired.

Well, one person saying that there's a good chance that the USPTO may invalidate a patent (or three) is not the same as actually getting the USPTO to invalidate said patent(s). It might happen, or the patents may prove to be claimed too narrowly to be invalidated easily. How broad does a patent covering VFAT have to make it difficult for competitors to interact with VFAT and still be a novel, non-obvious solution?

Here is my question: Why should I spend the money that I get from my 9-5 job to start up a new company if a few lazy lawyers can bring me to court and sue me without having any real legal ground? I might as well not bring innovation to the stage and save myself the hassle.

If you are facing lazy lawyers, then you should be fine. With the money you make marketing your innovations you should be able to hire some hardworking lawyers who can point out to the court that you are being sued without a legal basis. If you aren't able to make money with your innovations, they probably aren't worth that much in the first place and you're unlikely to get sued by anyone.

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (5, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#27752937)

It might happen, or the patents may prove to be claimed too narrowly to be invalidated easily. How broad does a patent covering VFAT have to make it difficult for competitors to interact with VFAT and still be a novel, non-obvious solution?

It doesn't matter. The reviews for prior art and the determination of patent infringement are separate. What seems to happen is that the patent is read narrowly when looking for a conflict with prior art, and broadly when looking for infringement. So the patent office and courts can simultaneously hold that a piece of prior art does not invalidate the patent, and that a particular device that uses something substantially similar to that same prior art is infringing.

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27752715)

And if the lawyers don't sue you, Barack Obama will tax you for having the audacity to make money. And then sue you for not hiring enough ignorant niggers.

The only solution is to outsource to India or China.

Chilling effect (3, Insightful)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 5 years ago | (#27753195)

I might as well not bring innovation to the stage and save myself the hassle.

That is exactly what the darkside hopes.

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (3, Insightful)

aynoknman (1071612) | more than 5 years ago | (#27754135)

... then clearly the system is so completely broken that I fear it cannot be repaired

It's not broken at all. The system clearly fosters innovation.

.... Legal Innovation.

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (1)

Yfrwlf (998822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27771669)

That's exactly the system that big companies and monopolies want and why it is how it is - one in which is completely determined by the size of your army of lawyers which favours monopolies and large companies. Corruption/money/competition got them there, now they use their money to keep themselves there.

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (2)

westlake (615356) | more than 5 years ago | (#27754389)

If a few lay-men webanaughts can find prior art in patents that were enough to force a company to settle out of court (for fear of legislation)

It was Tom-Tom that blinked first.

"Fear of legislation?"

What legislation?

This bill has a long way to go: H.R. 1260: Patent Reform Act of 2009 [govtrack.us]

The reality is that almost all cases are settled out of court - and while no formal precedents are set - pre-trial settlements do affect how you view your own prospects for success.

Even with the "webanaught" at your back.

[a coinage, which, btw, I hope and pray I'll never see again]

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (1, Flamebait)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 5 years ago | (#27756535)

Tom Tom did indeed blink first - they had been discussing licensing with Microsoft of several Tom Tom patents which they felt Microsoft had been infringing upon, and had threatened MS with litigation. When the licensing deal fell through, Microsoft simply pulled the gun first.

So why is no one trying very hard to invalidate Tom Toms patents in this case? From the sound of it they seem rather trivial -

Generating a maneuver at the intersection through a turn lane [uspto.gov]
Quick selection of destinations in an automobile navigation system [uspto.gov]

There is a third one which is not currently within the USPTO search engine.

Or is this just the usual 'hey its Microsoft, lets see if we can kick them' ferver?

And besides, three out of eight patents does not mean the case against Tom Tom goes away...

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (2, Insightful)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#27754883)

If a few lay-men webanaughts can find prior art in patents that were enough to force a company to settle out of court

I think that should read "a few lay-men webanaughts claimed to find prior art in patents that were enough to force a company to settle out of court"

Get real here, 90% of "lay-men webanaughts" hate Microsoft. Claims of prior art will get modded up regardless of legal merit.

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27757199)

>I might as well not bring innovation to the stage and save myself the hassle.

Good luck with that, try not to realize that this is the battle-cry of Couch Potatoes everywhere; Creative and or capable people simply do not think like that; It wouldn't even cross their minds.

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (1)

mgiuca (1040724) | more than 5 years ago | (#27780107)

"prior art in patents that were enough to force a company to settle out of court (for fear of legislation)"

I think you mean litigation.

Re:Indicative of the brokenness of the system (1)

dpastern (1077461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27823949)

Yeah well, until software patents are abolished, you're in for the same shit. Both the US democratic and republican parties, as well as most political parties world wide are *owned* by big business. These bastards aren't in the best interest of the public, they're in the best interest of filling their own pockets with bribes and kickbacks from big, self interested businesses. Just because we don't see it, doesn't mean it isn't happening. Oh, and Obama isn't any better, he's just as bad as the rest of them.

Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Never a truer word. But then, I'm an anti social, chaos anarchist at heart.

Dave

8==C=O=C=K==S=L=A=P==D ~~~ (patent pending) (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27752529)

8==C=O=C=K==S=L=A=P==D

Thunk.

fp (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27752555)

fp lol

Fat ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27752565)

I guess they're going to litigate every single device under 4gb huh

Who can compete? (4, Insightful)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 5 years ago | (#27752613)

Against a company with that many lawyers and the ability to litigate you to oblivion.

Re:Who can compete? (2, Insightful)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 5 years ago | (#27752935)

Many a plaintiff's lawyer has made a gazillion mozillion dollars litigating "against a company with that many lawyers and the ability to litigate you to oblivion."

Re:Who can compete? (2, Insightful)

FishOuttaWater (1163787) | more than 5 years ago | (#27754621)

And you find this encouraging? It's not the plaintiff's *lawyer* that I want to see making a gazillion mozillion dollars!

Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (4, Interesting)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 5 years ago | (#27752629)

I'm curious why TomTom wouldn't have done this work themselves to invalidate Microsoft's claims and avoid any sort of settlement? Couldn't they have stalled this until a determination was made that either the patent was invalid, or that their methods were based on the prior art - just like Microsoft's?

I'm hoping that TomTom just didnt do their homework and someone manages to come up with the info that they did not.

Makes me wonder how much luck this initiative will have - though I am hoping lots.

On another note, I wonder if an effort to invalidate the patents on the basis of "gee, that's obvious" is taking place as well...

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (5, Insightful)

FrankSchwab (675585) | more than 5 years ago | (#27752739)

Perhaps because Tom Tom's business model involves building and selling GPS devices, and not fighting patent battles?

It becomes really easy to decide to settle such a lawsuit to keep management focused on "job 1", rather than focusing on saving a few pennies per unit by fighting a lawsuit for several years with a very well funded adversary.

The difference between a successful business and an unsuccessful business often comes down to the CEO's ability to make such a business decision without letting the "fairness" of the issue cloud the "business" of the issue. Get too involved in "I'm not going to let them bleed me for what may be an obvious patent with what could be some obliquely-related prior art", and you're not focusing on your core business.

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 5 years ago | (#27752963)

Very good point... though I guess that would depend on what concessions they had to make in the settlement. Wonder if we will ever know. And of course, there is the possibility that they are fighting the patent separately in the hopes of invalidating any concessions they were forced to make.

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (4, Interesting)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 5 years ago | (#27752985)

It becomes really easy to decide to settle such a lawsuit to keep management focused on "job 1", rather than focusing on saving a few pennies per unit by fighting a lawsuit for several years with a very well funded adversary.

Because it invites other to sue you too. IBM could have easily bought SCOX to make their little... 'problem' go away, but it did not. Instead it spent millions to BURY SCOX to let all other know that it will not be intimidated into buying out a plaintiff.

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (4, Informative)

caerwyn (38056) | more than 5 years ago | (#27753329)

I suspect that IBM's motivation was much more related to ensuring that their customers didn't get cold feet about linux than it was to avoid other people trying to sue them. SCO was threatening all linux users- and since IBM makes money off linux at this point, they, that meant SCO was threatening their entire customer base. That made it a very good idea for IBM to trounce SCO in court, proving that their customers were safe (and therefore should keep buying IBM products/services).

The GP is talking about a very different view. MS was never going to sue TomTom's users; they just wanted money from TomTom. It's not at all unlikely that the settlement cost less money than litigation would, and certainly is less distracting, so the GP's point is quite valid.

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (2, Insightful)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 5 years ago | (#27754249)

Well, not every tech company keeps a small fleet of Nazgul in their legal department.

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (2, Insightful)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 5 years ago | (#27755173)

Well, not every tech company keeps a supersized fleet of Nazgul in their legal department.

Fixed it for you

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 5 years ago | (#27754919)

Because it invites other to sue you too. IBM could have easily bought SCOX to make their little... 'problem' go away, but it did not. Instead it spent millions to BURY SCOX to let all other know that it will not be intimidated into buying out a plaintiff.

IBM didn't make the first move to sue, SCO did. In many ways I feel IBMs lawyers felt fighting SCO was better than letting the arrogant little bastards get their way. SCO's case was so full of holes that everyone wanted them to suffer. SCO was also going after stuff that didn't simply attack Linux, but every variant of Unix out there, including AIX. Chances are SCO, as arrogant as there were, probably wouldn't have wanted to be bought at any price.

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27755859)

Except that's not really how it happened.

It was Novell who buried SCOX (you know, since SCOX's whole case was based around the idea that they owned the rights to UNIX, when said rights, in fact, belong to Novell).

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 5 years ago | (#27756349)

    That was a different playing field. IBM had the money for the lawyers, where they knew they could run SCO into the ground.

    Tom-tom, when faces against Microsoft, knew the couldn't afford it, were offered a decent option, and took it.

    It may not be a decent option in the grand scheme of things, but it was something they could afford.

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (2, Insightful)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 5 years ago | (#27762033)

While your post is true - and a method I am sure any legitimate company would want to go, the big difference is IBM can afford to spend millions on a lawsuit (and not bat an eye).

There lies a problem in our legal system. Often in cases like these, the company (or individual) with the least money (to spend on represenation) loses or gets forced to settle under unfavorable terms.

Microsoft has sued (in combination with other related activities) other companies out of existence in the past (Stac Electronics for one) - even when they were clearly in the wrong... maybe TomTom's route (no pun intended) was the best way for them.

Especially considering this is a market that Microsoft is showing interest in.

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (2, Funny)

interkin3tic (1469267) | more than 5 years ago | (#27753017)

Perhaps because Tom Tom's business model involves building and selling GPS devices, and not fighting patent battles?

Makes me glad I chose the buisness model I did: Making and selling GPS devices, and also running a secret assasin organization which kills patent trolls that get in my way. With poison darts.

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (1)

m.ducharme (1082683) | more than 5 years ago | (#27754257)

Makes me glad I chose the buisness model I did: Making and selling GPS devices, and also running a secret assasin organization which kills patent trolls that get in my way. With poison darts.

Oh dude. I sooo patented that business method. Just you wait til -- hey, what's that noi

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 5 years ago | (#27755315)

That made me think of a better method. Send them a piece of paper with only this written:

"Read this word out loud: Candlejack.".

As soon as they do, they're going t

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (4, Insightful)

harlows_monkeys (106428) | more than 5 years ago | (#27753107)

Perhaps because Tom Tom's business model involves building and selling GPS devices, and not fighting patent battles?

I suppose TomTom's suits against Garmin and Toyota were filed because it gets too cold in the Netherlands and they wanted to spend some time in the Eastern District of Texas (their venue of choice when they sue others)?

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27755569)

Nor are they to busy to countersue instead of just fighting the lawsuit.
From Wiki [wikipedia.org] :

In February 2009, Microsoft filed a patent infringement lawsuit against TomTom alleging that the device maker's products infringe on patents related to Microsoft's FAT32 filesystem. As some TomTom products are based on Linux, this marked the first time that Microsoft tried to enforce its patents against the Linux platform. On March 19 TomTom filed a countersuit alleging Microsoft is infringing 3 of its patents.

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27753175)

"Perhaps because Tom Tom's business model involves building and selling GPS devices, and not fighting patent battles?" You might be right. And Microsoft's business model involves aggressively suing, acquiring and otherwise eliminating potential competition. They also make a half-assed effort to produce things. Guess who wins in the end.

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#27760529)

The consumer? It's the consumer, right? That's why Microsoft wasn't punished worse for it's monopolistic actions, wasn't it?

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 5 years ago | (#27753767)

"I'm curious why TomTom wouldn't have done this work themselves to invalidate Microsoft's claims and avoid any sort of settlement?"

Probably because being wrong while speculating on Slashdot has no risk, but being wrong when your business is on the line does.

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (2, Insightful)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 5 years ago | (#27754857)

Better yet why does anyone make or sell anything in the US anymore, with all the bullshit legal restrictions they face. Why not move the company to China where there are essentially no IP laws?

Re:Why didnt TomTom look for this stuff? (1)

yuna49 (905461) | more than 5 years ago | (#27759709)

Perhaps because they might want to sell these items in the US, EU, or other jurisdictions where the patent laws do apply?

Does this mean that... (0)

assemblerex (1275164) | more than 5 years ago | (#27752749)

Microsoft does a reverse engineer of most products looking for exploitable liability?

I have a pal who makes CF adapters for MSX computers, I would assume these infringe on "prior art" for FAT.

I suppose they have to make up for the profit drop somehow!

Re:Does this mean that... (1)

julesh (229690) | more than 5 years ago | (#27756547)

I have a pal who makes CF adapters for MSX computers, I would assume these infringe on "prior art" for FAT.

I doubt it, seeing as IIRC MS wrote the software for MSXs, so presumably they are licensed for it.

Irony? (2, Funny)

HunterZ (20035) | more than 5 years ago | (#27752949)

It would be delightfully ironic if Microsoft's use of these patents to troll Tom Tom results in those same patents being invalidated.

Re:Irony? (3, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#27753335)

Now while this may be funny, it actually could work in MS's favour. For example, if they can make a big enough deal about this they can perhaps persuade other, smaller vendors to pay the patent extortion money and when the patent is invalidated it really doesn't matter because MS already has the money.

Previously invalidated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27753509)

Previously [wikipedia.org]
invalidated then re-validated.

Actual Patent Info (1)

caller9 (764851) | more than 5 years ago | (#27753633)

Why the hell weren't they using ext2/3 or anything else? I'm guessing compatibility for the flash card readers for music loaded up by a windows PC or something?

Long AND short file names - This is the ~1 ~2 etc crap you get for file names from the 8.3 format. Probably not the exact same thing but wouldn't Unix symbolic links count? They're old as dirt.
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT5579517 [google.com]

Ditto
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT5758352 [google.com]

Flash memory. Remove the word flash and it looks a lot like a textbook from the 70s on file systems 101 would work. Hell it almost looks like this could've been avoided by using a block allocation bitmap instead of storing usage flags in block headers.
http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6256642 [google.com]

Re:Actual Patent Info (4, Informative)

carlzum (832868) | more than 5 years ago | (#27753821)

The best explanation I've read was in a reply to the story [slashdot.org] when Tom-Tom settled with MS.

Money back (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#27753689)

Does TomTom get its money back when the patents are invalidated?

Re:Money back (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27754865)

Does TomTom get its money back when the patents are invalidated?

Since it was settled out of court, no. Not unless they manage to sue MS for bringing suit without merit or something.

Re:Money back (2, Insightful)

jwilcox2009 (1175035) | more than 5 years ago | (#27754975)

No. They will probably be able to stop paying royalties going forward once the patent is held invalid, however; most contracts state royalty payments are only owed while the patent is valid.

prior art (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27754809)

The CP/M file system. The original FAT12 file system was directly based on it and is nearly identical.

Nope. (1)

gcnaddict (841664) | more than 5 years ago | (#27756183)

The patents are for inventions not covered by the CP/M file system... or in FAT12 for that matter.

You should look up more information on prior art [wikipedia.org] .

Re:prior art (2, Interesting)

SlashWombat (1227578) | more than 5 years ago | (#27756765)

I would have said the same thing. However, I have not bothered to decipher the patents in question, so I could be wrong. Having said that, it should be said that the first versions of MSDOS were effectively clones of CP/M. So much so that it was easy to get CP/M programs running on IBM PC's equiped with v20 processors. (Took myself and another 24 hours to write appropriate code to trap the vector and redirect through the 8086 MSDOS kernel.)

Not the first challenge (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27755027)

These are patents on the VFAT/FAT32 long-file-name kludge. They have been fought by PubPat and found invalid, but the patents were restored upon appeal. Read about it [wikipedia.org] and you'll know why I stick with 8.3 file names on the embedded systems I work with. When lawyers are involved, being in the right is the road to bankruptcy!

Seems to be about VFAT (2, Insightful)

smugfunt (8972) | more than 5 years ago | (#27755605)

There's no obvous links to the patents themselves but from their names I'd say they are about VFAT not FAT itself. VFAT is the kludge that allows long file names on FAT filesystems.
If FAT alone was the issue then it would be its own prior art because it was first used in the early '80s, its specifications were widely known well before 1990 and any patents would have expired by now.
These patents date from 1992 to 1995 so only have a few years to run, but long enough to incentivize a switch away from (V)FAT I hope.

Re:Seems to be about VFAT (2, Insightful)

spitzak (4019) | more than 5 years ago | (#27762137)

Yes. Just to make it clear. The patents do NOT cover:

1. Putting files on a disk
2. The FAT file system
3. Using "long" filenames to name files.

What the patents cover is a scheme by which long filenames are emulated on a FAT disk, which normally can only handle 8.3 filenames.

In addition the patents cover a bit of actual innovation. The obvious method of doing this is to make a hidden file containing the long filenames. Microsoft instead made hidden directory entries (a whole lot of them) containing the long filenames. This is likely to be the second, not first, thing somebody trying to do this would do, so it can be considered an innovation. The reason this works better is that old software ignored the hidden directory entries, not not actual hidden files, so when you deleted all the files with the old software the old software thought the directory really was empty.

Re:Seems to be about VFAT (1)

Yfrwlf (998822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27771819)

Not to belittle your comment but instead software patents in general, yeah, it's called a program, you can make a program do anything you want because it's just an idea. Just because someone made a jerry-rig program to function with other programs which existed at the time doesn't mean it was some amazing "innovation". Anyone can make a program given enough time, the only difference between programs are their feature list, speed, bug numbers, interoperability with other programs, etc, but they've been the same fucking thing from the beginning: software is just software. Fuck patents.

Re:Seems to be about VFAT (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 5 years ago | (#27777005)

I agree that the Microsoft patent is bogus. Just wanted to state that things are not as black & white as people make it out to be.

I think a better attack is that you cannot interoperate without violating this patent. If this was a technique by which Microsoft could read/write FAT *faster* than anybody else, then maybe the patent could stand. But in fact you cannot write FAT *at all* without violating this patent, and you must be able to write FAT to use a device that can also be stuck into a Windows machine and work.

That should be considered illegal. I believe this has already be done with mechanical inventions, where you cannot patent exact dimensions of screws, etc.

Re:Seems to be about VFAT (1)

Yfrwlf (998822) | more than 5 years ago | (#27851063)

Good points, or simply that standards are needed for competition, and that the patent system is out of control. I like to simply say that all of that bureaucracy is BS and not needed at all. Save the tax payers money, get rid of all patents and copyrights too at that, and let companies truly, directly, *actually* compete with each other. Let the best things come out naturally due to companies wanting to make sales, instead of letting monopolies strangle everyone, preventing improvements from reaching and benefiting everyone and in the long run stifling all progress.
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