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Microsoft Gets Back Its FAT Patent In Germany

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the break-out-the-fatback-recipes dept.

Microsoft 113

Dj writes to let us know that Microsoft has regained its FAT patent in Germany. (We discussed it three years ago when the German Federal Patent Tribunal ruled that Microsoft's patent on the FAT file system, with short and long names, was not enforceable.) "The [German] appeal court's decision brings it into line with the US patent office's assessment of the FAT patent. In early 2006, after lengthy deliberations, the latter confirmed the rights to protection conferred by [US] patent number 5,579,517, claiming that the development was new and inventive."

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113 comments

My first thought... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31957534)

MS has patented Steve 'Sweaty' Ballmer??
I wonder if I can I patent turtle-necked geek with a messiah/god complex.

Re:My first thought... (1)

mkiwi (585287) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957674)

This just proves that once you get fat, you never go back!

Re:My first thought... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31958110)

Ballmer is thin by kraut standards.

You could not be more wrong (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31958632)

Ballmer is thin by kraut standards.

Nope. Times have changed.

As an American who has spent about half of the last 20 years in Germany, I can tell you with great certainty that the average German is in much better trim and is a relative toothpick compared to the average American. It stuns me sometimes when I come home and see all the lardasses waddling thru shopping malls here.

America has the obesity epidemic [obesityinamerica.org] , not Germany.

Re:My first thought... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958250)

I wonder if I can I patent turtle-necked geek with a messiah/god complex.

Nicht im Deutschland, es gibt Früher Kunstmittelstoffwerken [youtube.com] .

Microsoft gets Back Fat? There's an iDiet for that (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31957584)

just saying.

Re:Microsoft gets Back Fat? There's an iDiet for t (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958488)

Hey man, its not fat, its just bloated.

Software Patents in Germany (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31957642)

Just too bad that software patents can not be inforced in germany. They only exist for a possible future change of german or european patent law. A change which is currently rather unlikely.

Re:Software Patents in Germany (1)

assemblyronin (1719578) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957786)

I want to agree with you based on the fact that I have to believe that Europeans are better educated in things Technological. However, given enough money thrown at the problem with enough motivated entities it becomes an inevitability even in such an environment.

Re:Software Patents in Germany (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958072)

Software patents certainly are enforced, that's kinda what this story is about. The only issue is that the patents may not apply to all European countries, but even so everybody pays more or less the same fees as in the US.

Re:Software Patents in Germany (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31958154)

Software patents are typically disguised like this: Apparatus which performs the algorithm. The patent isn't on the software, just on a device which uses it. Say you want to make a camera which writes pictures to a FAT file system. Bzzzt. That's covered by the patent. You could write alternative FAT implementations, distribute and even sell them, so a Linux driver would be fine, but as soon as you start selling devices running that software, Microsoft has you cornered. Yes, this blatantly works around the physical invention rule, but that's the way it is done in Germany.

Re:Software Patents in Germany (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31960652)

Unbelievable.

Timelines (2, Insightful)

coniferous (1058330) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957648)

Isnt there a statue of limitations in germany? I mean, FAT is like 20 years old.

Oblig reference... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31957678)

It is "statue" of limitations.

Re:Oblig reference... (2, Informative)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957706)

I believe the correction you are looking for is "statute."

Re:Oblig reference... (1)

amliebsch (724858) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957958)

I really think you're wrong! [youtube.com]

Re:Oblig reference... (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957720)

No, he means Statue of Limitations [radioleft.com] , not statute.

Re:Oblig reference... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31957838)

as in "you are limited from viewing this statue?"

401 error on your link buddy.

Re:Timelines (0, Troll)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957724)

Isnt there a statue of limitations in germany?

No, Germany does not have limitations in a statue form. On the other hand, they might have a statute of limitations.

Re:Timelines (1)

will.perdikakis (1074743) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957832)

WHOOSH!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUIP_9fl1IM

Re:Timelines (1)

sentientbeing (688713) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957936)

Wow. Your google-fu is strong, grasshopper

Re:Timelines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31958566)

He totally fucking fails at hyperlinks though.

Re:Timelines (1)

coniferous (1058330) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958078)

Proof that spell check is useless without a brain to go with it. I think I need another cup of Coffee.

Re:Timelines (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 4 years ago | (#31959114)

This isn't about FAT itself, but about the Long~1.ext filenames for FAT - which makes this about 15 years old.

PS: if you're want to nitpick about the format of the name - screw you.

Re:Timelines (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31963614)

From the patent: "Filed: April 24, 1995" ... which means, with a 15-year limit, it expires tomorrow.

I thought Europe didn't allow software patents? (3, Interesting)

Palestrina (715471) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957654)

What am I missing?

Re:I thought Europe didn't allow software patents? (2, Informative)

H.G.Blob (1550325) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958064)

The European Patent Office usually does not grant software only patents but that doesn't mean that each country can't have a diverging policy. If you RTFA, the original decision was in part motivated by the EU policy on software patents.

Re:I thought Europe didn't allow software patents? (1)

LordVader717 (888547) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958296)

They do. At least, they're not very rigorous about taking them down. The courts get to interpret the law. Because of the uncertainty, Europeans have to license much the same patents as Americans.

Re:I thought Europe didn't allow software patents? (3, Interesting)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958764)

You're missing the fine print loophole. Yes, software applications are not patentable.

However, the loophole is that an invention that solves a "technical problems" in a non-obvious way (rather than just a "business problem") is still patentable - which according to this court decision includes file systems.

As far as this non-lawyer can see, that makes the law a paper shell because it protects only software that is obviously not patentable anyway (Say, Microsoft getting a patent on word processors*) but leaves algorithms unprotected. (Ironically, algorithms are also considered unpatentable in the narrowest sense, which is why patents have to replace the word "algorithm" with one that the Patent Office does not understand.)

(*Or Amazon getting a patent on a web shop UI... OH WAIT. :P )

Re:I thought Europe didn't allow software patents? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31962626)

But like always how is that nonobvious? Any software developer worth his salt could come up with thousand solutions for similar problems in minutes. He had to think, but at most he should be granted a patent for eight hours to pay back his great effort. The solution itself is worthless and produces little innovation.
The only reason this patent is valuable is because they are MS and can use the patent to keep others from making inter-operable software.
They should be getting an antitrust lawsuit, not money.

I wonder (1, Flamebait)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957686)

I wonder how much that cost MS. Bribes aren't cheap.

The geek mind-set (2, Interesting)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957950)

I wonder how much that cost MS. Bribes aren't cheap.

Loose talk about bribery is for losers.

Given the importance of complex legal codes, {German] judges must be particularly well trained. Indeed, judges are not chosen from the field of practicing lawyers. Rather, they follow a distinct career path. At the end of their legal education at university, all law students must pass a state examination before they can continue on to an apprenticeship that provides them with broad training in the legal profession over two years. They then must pass a second state examination that qualifies them to practice law. At that point, the individual can choose either to be a lawyer or to enter the judiciary. Judicial candidates start working at courts immediately, however they are subjected to a probationary period of up to five years before being appointed as judges for lifetime. Judiciary of Germany [wikipedia.org]

Re:The geek mind-set (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958360)

Ah, so, your counter to talk about bribery is about how judges "follow a distinct path (where they choose at the end of said path, just like a bad open-ended game)", and are exceptionally well trained?

Did you forget that judges will meet quite a few people who choose "lawyer" at the end of that path? Also, did you forget that judges will know other people?

Re:The geek mind-set (4, Informative)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#31959482)

Ah, so, your counter to talk about bribery is about how judges "follow a distinct path" and are exceptionally well trained?

Consider how many years you have invested in becoming a judge-for-life. That it is the only life you have ever known. How likely is it that you will consider throwing it all away?

Did you forget that judges will meet quite a few people who choose "lawyer" at the end of that path?

The judge in a German court is more than a referee:

There is no such thing as a jury trial in Germany.


Under German law, as under American law, the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty. In minor [criminal] cases there may be only a single judge presiding. Or, if the charges are severe and the accused faces heavy penalties, there may be five persons hearing the case - three professional judges and two lay judges.


Though he has the duty of defending the accused to the maximum of his ability, a German lawyer is not as active in court as an American lawyer. In a German trial, the judge, not the defense counsel or the prosecutor, obtains the testimony of the witnesses. After the judge is finished, the prosecutor and the defense counsel will be permitted to question witnesses. The aim is to obtain the truth from witnesses by direct questioning rather than through the examination and cross-examination generally used in a US trial.
German Justice: 2 Days per Murder [tinyvital.com] [2003]

Re:The geek mind-set (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958482)

That's all well and good, but doesn't it mean that they're not one but two steps removed from the real world that they're ultimately passing judgments on?

Also, it neither refutes nor proves the GP's accusations of bribery. Especially if they have to pay for all those years of schooling themselves.

Retroactive (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31957690)

This seems fucked up. The patent was invalidated, which allowed anyone to implement the technology from the patent. Now, they're saying that the patent is valid, which means that anyone who implemented technology from the patent has been retroactively made a criminal. They will have to pay royalties on anything they sold, and they will be unable to sell their product anymore, even if they spent millions on developing it (unless they get a license from Microsoft).

Re:Retroactive (1)

Dumnezeu (1673634) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958786)

Do you have anything to support that FUD?

Re:Retroactive (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958814)

No, they retroactively made people patent infringers, that's not the same as being a criminal. It's up to Microsoft to sue or not sue.

Fat Patent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31957698)

With Steve Baldmer at the head of Microsoft, that was kind of obvious.

Re:Fat Patent? (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 4 years ago | (#31959262)

With Steve Baldmer at the head of Microsoft, that was kind of obvious.

Who is Steve Baldmer, anyway.

If something is obvious, then you can't patent it. Oh, behavior, you can't patent corporate behavior.

--

This is not the statue you are looking for. Nothing to see here. Move along.

FAT is antiquated (2, Interesting)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957726)

Does this have any practical significance? Am I missing something? Is FAT still worth enough for them to bother fighting to have their patent in Germany?

Re:FAT is antiquated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31957772)

Sure. USB, SD, CF cards all use it out of the box and you know how many of those are out in the wild.

Re:FAT is antiquated (1)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957834)

I can buy them in the United States, so they must be licensed to use FAT.

Re:FAT is antiquated (2, Interesting)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958896)

The patent covers the long file name implementation. This isn't a patent on FAT in general. So a USB card will not be patent infringing. Even if there are long file names on it, the infringer is whatever created those files. This would be things like digital cameras for instance that actually create files, or other operating systems, etc. Reading the long file names would not be affected by the patents.

Re:FAT is antiquated (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31961762)

Note that Cameras often create files with names like "DCIM0043.JPG", which fits into the old 8.3 format. This might be in order to avoid having to license the FAT LFN patent.

Re:FAT is antiquated (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 4 years ago | (#31959004)

I can buy them in the United States, so they must be licensed to use FAT.

Sure, so they pay a fee in the US, but not where the patent isn't valid. Shouldn't make a difference to MS - apart from the fee.

Re:FAT is antiquated (1)

Philip_the_physicist (1536015) | more than 4 years ago | (#31963598)

Wasn't there a story here a couple of years ago that MS and some other large companies were charging a fee for all items sold, whether in a country which recognises the patent in question or not, as a condition of licensing it in any country which does recognise the patent.

Re:FAT is antiquated (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958648)

What matters is not how many there are out in the wild but how many are domesticated.

Re:FAT is antiquated (5, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957804)

FAT is, indeed, an antique; but it is still pretty much the only FS that is trivial enough to implement in your cheap digital camera or USB MSC MP3 player, or whatever, that is also supported out of the box by MS operating systems.

That is why FAT is still worth something to Microsoft. Even for fairly fiddly embedded systems, there are plenty of free filesystems that are easily good enough. For real computers, FAT would be absurd. If, however, you are making a fiddly embedded system that also has to share a filesystem with a real computer, FAT is basically your choice(or exFAT, which is newer and more evil, and will be patent protected even longer).

Microsoft has absolutely no incentive to support ext2, 3, or 4, or HFS, or any of the others, and NTFS is a bit much for the lighter-weight embedded systems.

Re:FAT is antiquated (4, Insightful)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957836)

FAT is needed because Microsoft has effective control of it's OS platform and any other new filesystem standard is going to create a similar patent and support nightmare.

Microsoft is going to do it's hardest to trap it's users and make everyone else seem like 2nd class (just like Apple does).

Re:FAT is antiquated (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958148)

My understanding is that there isn't any real technical obstacle to implementing other FSes on Windows(though to work with the newest ones, you might well need to play the WHQL/driver signing game, which isn't free, and would give MS the option of stonewalling you); but that, in practice, there is basically no way that that is going to happen.

Customers(sensibly enough) are going to balk at being asked to install a kernel driver just to get a flash drive or generic MP3 player to work and, even if they would go for it, MS can easily enough make FAT licensing sufficiently cheap that it just isn't worth the effort and support nightmare of producing a fully supported ext2 implementation for Windows.

Hopefully the patents involved will expire soon.

Re:FAT is antiquated (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31959970)

Microsoft did not invent FAT (and they where not the first to use it). The German patents are about a specific FAT extension that make it possible to store both the 8.3 "DOS" filename as well as the long "Windows" filename in a FAT filesystem. Linux (and other open-source projects) now have a simple trick to avoid licenses: they store the short OR the long filename. This works transparently for short filenames, and (now rare) devices that can't handle the long filenames don't use long filenames anyway.

Re:FAT is antiquated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31958772)

... NTFS is a bit much for the lighter-weight embedded systems.

Or, indeed, the 360.

Re:FAT is antiquated (1)

G00F (241765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957846)

More than just it being an old stepping stone tech, I would think with this patent close to expiring (filed 95, granted in 96), it would not be pursued.

Re:FAT is antiquated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31957880)

Yes anyone that sells ANY device with Linux installed MUST Purchase a FAT License from Microshaft. Like it or not. Sofware Patents suck.

Who Cares (0)

b4upoo (166390) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957728)

Why would anyone want to be stuck with FAT? There are several great file systems in use these days.

Re: Who Cares (1)

BisexualPuppy (914772) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957808)

FAT* is (are) the only filesystem readable by every single OS out there. Just insert an ext2 or NTFS or HFS* USB drive into any computer you can.

Re: Who Cares (4, Informative)

mr_da3m0n (887821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957812)

Tell this to cameras, PDAs, consoles, embedded devices... In a windows-dominated world, what else would you use that everyone could read from write to? NTFS? Ha, no.

Re: Who Cares (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31958802)

There are windows ext2 drivers. And damn near every camera, pda, and MP3 player in the world comes with an (often useless) driver/install disk. Maybe this market should push back. Maybe this is why we have laws regulating monopolies. Its not like there are no options here.

Re: Who Cares (1)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 4 years ago | (#31959306)

<sarcasm>You are always welcome to create your own drive and sell it in the market place without FAT. In this free market, if you make a better product, then you should be able to wipe out the rest of the market or at least be able to compete to a level of profitability. So far, the market has cried loudly that FAT is the best of the best having nearly crushed all the competition. Furthermore, in a truly free economy, monopolies should be allowed to exist as long as they provide the best product for the best price. The minute a monopoly no longer creates the best product for the best price, a competitor will rise up and take that dominance away. Thus, clearly, the free market system has indicated there is either limited use for the ext2 file system, or no one has tried.</sarcasm>

Re: Who Cares (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31960248)

I really need to make an account. I am not sure what your point is here. But no, personally I have never seen any of the incumbent device makers (the guys with power and money) try to deploy an alternative file system on windows. They may find it in their collective best interest to at least try (not that they read /. but maybe their engineers do). I also do not understand your silly free market rant. The US already has the ability to regulate monopolies. Instead of making Microsoft freely distribute FAT I would prefer to force them to provide a method for device makers to use whatever file system they prefer (within reason, possibly through a standards org). This would require the DoJ to continue putting pressure on MS, and I have little faith that it will happen though.

While pragmatism is indeed quite powerful, we should not always blindly follow that path. The greatest improvements are from recognizing the root causes of problems and working towards fixing them. If we are always pragmatic then we will eventually drown in our hacked together, and worked around spaghetti code. I guess I am making the argument here that interoperability is a right not a privilege. At least with Microsoft the DoJ once agreed with my views, so it is not too crazy a view.

Re: Who Cares (1)

ChefInnocent (667809) | more than 4 years ago | (#31961456)

My point was kind of to mock a couple of groups. First, those that believe we have a free market system. Second, to mock those that think everything is unicorns and leprechauns in a truly free market system.

I believe that monopolies are the end result in a truly free market system. One player will dominate the market place through one means or another. Once they have that monopoly, they will force their will on others, and squeeze out any possibility of another player rising. Furthermore, even if that were not the case, not everyone has the means, ability, or resources to actually start up a business. Yet, some people just think that a truly free market will just make room for the best ideas even for those without the resources.

Re: Who Cares (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 4 years ago | (#31961792)

UDF? Granted, writing to it is finicky under OS X and I'm not sure how well Windows works but it has been a full FAT replacement for ages. Except people don't seem to bother even perceiving it.

Re: Who Cares (1)

mr_da3m0n (887821) | more than 4 years ago | (#31962054)

That would require packet writing (UDF 1.50+, I believe?), and that feels somewhat tacked on as an afterthought.

Maybe it could indeed be used, but I'm not sure what the limitations and performance issues would be, if any, but perhaps it could be a viable replacement -- only, it's not nearly as universal as you make it sound like, unlike FAT.

Re: Who Cares (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958470)

Why would anyone want to be stuck with FAT? There are several great file systems in use these days.

Because pretty much everything uses it, that's why. You can put forward a well-argued case about why ext69 is a better filesystem because it can store 1GB of data in seven bits, still be readable after a direct hit with a hydrogen bomb leaves only three atoms of the drive remaining, and solves world peace- but it won't be compatible with every random Tom, Dick and Harry device out there.

Open filesystems for digital cameras? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31957732)

Are there any high end digital cameras that have an option to use, for example ext2/ext3, because those file systems kick FAT ass in all benchmarks.

Re:Open filesystems for digital cameras? (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957758)

except for the one benchmark that matters -- using it with windows.

Stupid Headline (5, Informative)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957798)

The patent is not for the FAT filesystem itself. The patent is for the kludge that allows FAT to support both long filenames and 8.3 filenames.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_filename [wikipedia.org]

Re:Stupid Headline (2, Interesting)

hvdh (1447205) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957870)

The patent is not for the FAT filesystem itself. The patent is for the kludge that allows FAT to support both long filenames and 8.3 filenames.

Kludge is quite right. I was pretty surprised to find out that on CDROMs, a long filename had a different 8.3 name when listed in pure DOS vs. in a Windows 98 (?) command shell.

Re:Stupid Headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31958048)

Completely different issue. CDROMs don't use the FAT filesystem.

Re:Stupid Headline (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958432)

Completely different issue. CDROMs don't use the FAT filesystem.

Correct, but didja know that, by default, NTFS stores both long and short file names [microsoft.com] ?

And yes, that Windows still smells of DOS after all these years, is considered a feature.

Re:Stupid Headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31959052)

It is a feature; it means that 16-bit apps (including the excellent New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary that I use almost daily) continue to work.

If you don't like the feature, turn it off.

Re:Stupid Headline (1)

Lars T. (470328) | more than 4 years ago | (#31959180)

Completely different issue. CDROMs don't use the FAT filesystem.

Which BTW is exactly why the old decision was overturned - isn't it amazing what you can find out when you RTFA?

Re:Stupid Headline (2, Insightful)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958126)

CDs don't use FAT. Probably ISO 9660. In which case the bug would be in Microsoft's implementation of that standard.

Re:Stupid Headline (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31959552)

Windows uses Joliet (an extension to ISO9660). And before you cry about Windows using proprietary extensions: Linux uses the Rockridge extension to ISO9660.

Re:Stupid Headline (1)

yuhong (1378501) | more than 4 years ago | (#31959808)

And Apple has it's own extension to ISO 9660 too.

Re:Stupid Headline (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31959942)

It takes more than that to bring me tears.

So, is the problem in the Joliet spec or MS's implementation of it?

Re:Stupid Headline (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 4 years ago | (#31960358)

Basically, Joliet is a completely separate directory structure. Since Windows 98 didn't come with its own CD burning application, it's nost likely the problem of whatever program created the CD. I guess the problem is related to the fact that Windows uses the tilde for the short file names on FAT, but the tilde is not an allowed character for file names on original ISO9660. I guess the burning application copied the original short file name into Joliet (so you'd get a consistent experience under Windows), but replaced the tilde in the ISO9660 file name (necessary to be standard conforming). Windows read the Joliet directory and got the tilde form, while DOS read the ISO9660 directory and got the tilde-free filename.

So if my guess is right (without actually seeing the actual file names, I cannot be sure), the problem is neither the Joliet spec nor Microsoft's implementation of it, but a mismatch between Microsoft's decision to use a tilde in the shortened FAT filename, and the fact that ISO9660 didn't allow a tilde in the filename. A burning program therefore had to decide between using a different short file name on the Joliet and ISO9660 directories (thus producing an inconsistency between operating systems which do and those which don't use Joliet) and generally using a different short file name on the CD than the one on the hard disk (which would have a visible effect even within Windows 98, and would likely have generated more complaints).

Re:Stupid Headline (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 4 years ago | (#31959010)

CD's don't use FAT... They have their own confusing and conflicting set of standards. Long file names on CDs are not strictly portable according to standards, though most systems are flexible enough accept them even w/o ugly Joliet extensions.

Re:Stupid Headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31957906)

Mod parent up. The patent deals with the VFAT filesystem, which can be read by a file system that only supports FAT (and written to also, although doing so might destroy the long file name).

Re:Stupid Headline (1)

jolson74 (861893) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958030)

True... but many folks who would use FAT these days would want to use long file names as well. Otherwise, your filenames get munged when moving data from a "real" FS to the FAT based one (e.g. transferring data between computers using a USB key, etc.)

As a result, this patent does a pretty effective job of locking up use of FAT as well.

Re:Stupid Headline (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31958104)

Shouldn't it block other file systems from implementing the same feature the same way, but not block implementations nor use (as in interacting with ) of FAT file systems?

Re:Stupid Headline (1)

c++0xFF (1758032) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958244)

Is this what passes for innovation these days? Kludges to ensure backwards compatibility?

Makes me want to patent all the clever hacks I've put into my own code, instead of getting rid of them.

Re:Stupid Headline (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#31961454)

Makes me want to patent all the clever hacks I've put into my own code

That is, in fact, a common practice. I've worked at two different software companies that did it routinely. The purpose is not so much to force people to pay you for using your hacks as to use your patents as leverage against other companies in your various legal battles.

Not really practical unless you have a bunch of lawyers on the payroll to figure out what's patentable.

Re:Stupid Headline (3, Interesting)

anonum (1057442) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958346)

Yes and there's a linux kernel patch that should cleverly circumvent that patent
http://www.linuxfordevices.com/c/a/News/FAT-patch/ [linuxfordevices.com]
http://lkml.org/lkml/2009/6/26/313 [lkml.org]
It hasn't apparently been tested in court so far though.

On U.S. soil, one wouldn't probably want to acid-test the above patch in court, somewhere was mentioned that it may cost up to $5M to defend yourself in court for a single patent infringiment, even if you would not turn out to be infringing a patent at all.

So... (2, Insightful)

ProdigyPuNk (614140) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957932)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but Microsoft was basically granted a patent for throwing metadata in unused volume labels ? Why would anyone even WANT to violate the patent ? According to the Wikipedia entry on Long Filename, too many files with the same first six letters will cause issues. Man, that is one hell of a hack.

Similar 8.3 file naming schemes have also existed (2, Informative)

viralMeme (1461143) | more than 4 years ago | (#31957974)

`Similar 8.3 file naming schemes [wikipedia.org] have also existed on earlier CP/M, Atari, and some Data General and Digital Equipment Corporation minicomputer operating systems'

Re:Similar 8.3 file naming schemes have also exist (3, Informative)

mattdm (1931) | more than 4 years ago | (#31959952)

Yeahhhhh.... but that's not the patent.

Expiration? (1)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958044)

Isn't that patent close to expiration now?

Only in this world (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31958494)

Only in this world would a hack to fix a bad design be considered "new" and "inventive". Unbelievable.

How Linux avoids this patent (4, Informative)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958626)

The patent issue here is not how to store a long filename in a FAT directory. The patent covers the technique for making a file system where each file has two names, and 8.3 "short" name and a "long" name.

This was crucial back in the day. Your Windows 3.1 system could read the floppy disk written by your Windows 95 computer; that file you saved as "ode to a summer day.txt" would wind up as ODETOA~1.TXT in Windows 3.1, and you could access the file.

But these days, nobody really cares about the 8.3 "short" filenames. Windows XP, Windows 7, Mac OS, etc. all just look at the long filenames.

So, Andrew Tridgell made a change to the Linux VFAT driver, and now Linux writes a valid long filename, and puts horrible junk in the space for the 8.3 filename. The horrible junk includes illegal characters for a filename. Thus, Linux is not writing both a long and a short filename, and thus isn't infringing.

And Linux still has the FAT driver, in addition to the VFAT driver. The FAT driver reads and writes 8.3 filenames only. In the event that you have a volume with nothing but 8.3 filenames, you can still use it with Linux.

http://www.osnews.com/story/21766/Linux_Kernel_Patch_Works_Around_Microsoft_s_FAT_Patents [osnews.com]

The FAT long filenames patent should expire sometime around 2015, at which time Linux will return to full compatibility. (I presume that in countries that don't enforce software patents, people are still using Linux with full compatibility.)

steveha

Re:How Linux avoids this patent (1)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958936)

Well, that's interesting. If that works, then there's no reason why ANYONE should be paying MS royalties. Who cares at all about 8.3 file names anymore? If you want an 8.3, put an 8.3 in the long name.

Re:How Linux avoids this patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31959786)

The horrible junk includes illegal characters for a filename. Thus, Linux is not writing both a long and a short filename, and thus isn't infringing.

The workaround relies on that one specific claim. It could easily be argued that even though the short string contains illegal characters for a "normal" filename it still is a filename as far as the patent is concerned. There is nothing in the patent that says what the "legal" characters are (different filesystems have different requirements), or even what a filename constitutes to - i.e. that you have to be able to access a file via a filename.

In fact, that's partially what's wrong with software patents - reading just claim 1, it says - hey, wouldn't it be cool if we stored both short and long filenames. It's just an IDEA, and nothing that even comes close to specific implementation or details of how this implementation is supposed to work and what it is supposed to achieve. These types of IDEAS are not supposed to be patentable.

Re:How Linux avoids this patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31960476)

It could easily be argued that even though the short string contains illegal characters for a "normal" filename it still is a filename as far as the patent is concerned.

Maybe so, but Tridge did consult with lawyers. If you are a lawyer, please start citing reasons why we should worry about this; otherwise, please stop wildly speculating about legal matters.

Re:How Linux avoids this patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31960658)

I don't have to cite anything - I can freely express my opinion whether it suits your view of the patent or not. And guess what - so can you.

Just because the patent is a legal document doesn't mean you cannot have an opinion about it unless you are a lawyer, especially in a field where most lawyers know next to nothing about.

Re:How Linux avoids this patent (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31961862)

Oh, you are free to tell us all your opinion. Since you didn't back it up, you are just wasting all our time, but you can do it.

I'm free to paste bad jokes in here too, or just insult you. That's just as useful!

When the question before us is "does Tridge's patch successfully avoid the patent?" your opinion is pointless. So is mine. All that matters is what the legal system will make of the patch. If you could point to examples of other patents with a similar situation, or if you were an experienced patent attorney, or if you gave us any shred of evidence that your opinion is in any way shared by the legal system, then I would take you more seriously.

I could put an opinion here and say that Microsoft's patents should be invalidated, because it's really damned obvious: it's just damned backward compatibility and how the hell did they get a patent on that? Well guess what, Microsoft successfully used the patent as a club to hammer TomTom with, and the legal system let them do it. My opinion is worthless. Just like yours!

So okay, "it could easily be argued" that writing garbage into a filename field might be considered to be writing a valid filename. That's your opinion. I just don't take it at all seriously. But you are free to post it here!

CORRECTION! (1, Redundant)

NicknamesAreStupid (1040118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31958754)

The court actually meant that Microsoft could patent fat, you know, the stuff that so many of you think fills the space between Mr. Ballmer's ears. Now that they have the patent, they can charge 89 euros per pound above a BMI of 18. In Germany, that adds up to about 200 billion euros. Now, why would Microsoft get a patent on fat? It is soft ware.
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