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PUBPAT Challenges Microsoft's FAT Patent

CowboyNeal posted more than 10 years ago | from the slim-filesystems-still-safe dept.

Patents 396

An anonymous reader writes "The Public Patent Foundation filed a formal request with the United States Patent and Trademark Office today to revoke Microsoft Corporation's patent on the FAT File System, touted by Microsoft as being 'the ubiquitous format used for interchange of media between computers, and, since the advent of inexpensive, removable flash memory, also between digital devices.' In its filing, PUBPAT submitted previously unseen prior art showing the patent, which issued in November 1996 and is not otherwise due to expire until 2013, was obvious and, as such, should have never been granted."

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About time... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878221)

... somebody did this. FAT's been around and is now somewhat of a standard. Maybe some of MS's other patents can be challenged as well.

Re:About time... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878236)

Yeah it's been around... In MSDOS.

Re:About time... (5, Insightful)

r4bb1t (663244) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878243)

I don't mean to play devil's advocate, but is it ok to challenge patents just because they become standards?

Re:About time... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878257)

I was just about to say that...

Re:About time... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878271)

Yes.

Re:About time... (5, Insightful)

Bronster (13157) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878275)

I don't mean to play devil's advocate, but is it ok to challenge patents just because they become standards?

If they were standards before they were patented, then yeah - I would say that's grounds for challenging them.

If they were a stealth patent on an idea that was common knowledge at the time (and I'm thinking especially of things that just weren't practical due to lack of CPU power that are blindingly obvious as well) then yeah, definitely.

Anyway, all the devil's advocates are on loan to SCO at the moment, raking in megabucks from the warchest.

Re:About time... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878462)

The microsoft patents aren't about all of the FAT file system. Rather the method of storing short and long file names in the FAT file system.

Interestingly, the request for reexamination is based partly on what Microsoft might do, and has made no attempt to do. Their assertions are that in light of other patents the specific combination of techniques would have been obvious. This strikes me as less than genuine because of how patents are done, particularly in this day in age. If the combination of ideas was so obvious, why didn't the last of the submitted prior art patent it, since they're so skilled they can claim worthy patents when there is significant pressure to claim everything thing concievable at the time of the filing?

But more importantly; in the case of the invention of polyamides, with their logic the claimed invention of one precludes others from claiming the invention of others of similar structure. In light of Nylon, Kevlar is obvious.

This of course is not what happened.

I'm not saying that shouldn't have happened. It's an interesting demand to make of would be inventors, and certainly a considerable demand to make of the patent office. (I guess we know that when they play Stars! 2 they always click the bleeding edge technology box.) But the fact that their line of reasoning isn't followed, really at all, and has many billions, possibly trillions, of dollars in property bet against it doesn't bode well I would think.

Re:About time... (1)

spectre_240sx (720999) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878326)

In my opinion, yes. It doesn't mean you have to win, but without challenges, power becomes absolute, and we all know what happens then.

Re:About time... (5, Insightful)

Grail (18233) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878419)

I think patents should be treated the same way as copyright - if you don't enforce it, you obviously don't want it. Why is Microsoft going to enforce FAT patents now? If they'd enforced them earlier, noone would have used FAT, they'd have found something else to use.

Re:About time... (5, Informative)

red floyd (220712) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878439)

That's trademark, not copyright.

Re:About time... (-1, Redundant)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878444)

Patents are intended to protect an "inventon" for a fix amount of time. In this case there are two very strong issues for why this patent should not be granted: 1) There is nothing novel or unique about the fat system (likely part of why it wasn't patented in the first place). There is simply no invention here, There is the particular locations of certain data structurs that are unique to fat, but that's not a standard, just a convention or, with the monopoly power of Microsoft, a standard. and 2) even if there were some invention here, it should be protected at the time it was released, Microsoft should no be allowed to wait 20 or more years and then patent the fat system well after thay see it is in comon use, and only because it is in comon use. The wheelbarrow has never been patented either, but that doesn't mean that someone should be able to patent it now.

Re:About time... (4, Interesting)

Vicegrip (82853) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878465)

Let me suggest this question then:
If it becomes a standard, is it in society's interest to let the patent last so long?

COME TOGETHER, MY BROTHERS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878263)

and lend me a dollar, I need to take the bus to the unemployment office.

Sadly... (4, Insightful)

Sheetrock (152993) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878272)

This only weakens the concept of intellectual property. Why invent if you're just going to have to fight legal battles for the length of your patent?

Because you need to solve a goddamn problem (2, Insightful)

Perianwyr Stormcrow (157913) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878280)

If you don't have a problem to solve, then please don't invent. Save me some work. Sheesh.

Re:Because you need to solve a goddamn problem (4, Insightful)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878357)

Too true, too true. And some of these companies invent problems to solve. Take razor companies like BIC and Gilette, for example. Do you know how many patents they have on the razor head for the Sensor XL? Something like 20. And half of them are on the mechanism for holding the head to the handle.

Why do they do this? It's not really to make a better shave like they say. It's so that once they've spent millions of dollars pushing a particular product, someone else can't come out with "Sensor-compatible" heads to take away their massive profits.

I understand that companies need to protect themselves, but it's one thing when they make something different that's better, and quite another when they've made something that's different and just better marketed. This sort of patent activity is a waste of time and an abuse of the system which makes it more difficult for legitimate inventions to be properly considered.

OK, I'm done with my little soapbox rant. It's just that I know some people who are small inventors and have a few patents having to do with radiation detectors, and I've seen the work that he's gone through to protect his inventions, and it makes me sick to think that some huge company with a big IP law department can force through some ridiculous patent while it takes a little guy years to get the final paperwork on truly innovative concepts.

Sigh.

I think that's the whole point (4, Interesting)

Elpacoloco (69306) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878302)

On one hand, no patents means that inventing something immediately gets stolen, evil corporation profits millions of dollars, joe inventor gets squat.

However, too many patents means that when joe inventor makes something, evil corporation sues him for violating patent 284958390*pi^12, "Use of energy to propell machine," and steals his work anyway, making millions of dollars while give the original invetor squat.

Re:I think that's the whole point (1)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878498)

Then bring on the quotas. Have one for Joe, and one for Bill, et al.

Re:Sadly... (4, Interesting)

Bronster (13157) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878310)

This only weakens the concept of intellectual property. Why invent if you're just going to have to fight legal battles for the length of your patent?

Um - because if it really is a novel invention worthy of patent protection then all the later judges are going to throw it out of court immediately based on the previous decision, and if you're a scum sucking pond scum who's standing on the shoulders of the giants before you and setting up a toll gate to stop those who really are innovating then you bloody well deserve what you get.

The concept of intellectual property was never designed to protect the sort of arsewipe who patents every piece of common knowledge they can slip under the noses of the patent office and makes a business out of milking their "valuable IP portfolio". If you're in the business of buying other people's ideas for the purpose of extorting money from people building the future on top of them, then I say good riddance to you - our current technology is built on the ideas of our predecessors, and who are we to stop our successors from learning from us?

Re:Sadly... (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878365)

How many truly original inventions have been the subject of high-profile patent litigation recently? None that I can think of. It seems to me that the vast majority of patent cases lately have been corporations (corporations don't invent things; people do) trying to milk money out their competitors over unoriginal "inventions" that represent blindingly obvious and/or widely-used technologies that should never have been patented in the first place.

And truly innovative people invent because they want to make the world a better place. If they make money off it, that's gravy, not the motivating force. It's the suits, who have never had an original thought in their lives, who go to court to try to squeeze a few more bucks out of the fruits of the labor of the people with brains.

Re:Sadly... (4, Informative)

NortWind (575520) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878374)

This only weakens the concept of intellectual property.
There is no such thing as intellectual property. Ideas are free, and always have been. There are copyrights, which restrict commercial use of original works. There are also patents, by which the governments grants the inventor of a novel idea a monopoly on the use of that idea for a limited time, for the express purpose of placing the idea into the public domain. Once an invention is patented, the patent is public record and anybody can read it at anytime, and come to understand the ideas contained in it if they wish.

Re:Sadly... (3, Informative)

sharkb8 (723587) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878381)

First, It's not a legal battle. It's just a request that the USPTO take another look at the patent in light of the prior art. If I'm not mistaken, Microsoft has the right to rebut the request, and PubPat doesn't gat to respond to Microsoft.

Second, If it wasn't a bogus patent being weilded for compeitive advantage, no one would have requested a re-examination.

Re:About time... (5, Informative)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878282)

Was not FAT12 (DOS 2.0) not actually an extension of the CP/M file system? Does not ProDOS, MFS HFS and all most all the other early file systems behave in similar fashions? FAT16 was merely a hacked to 2gb extension of the orignal 32mb limited FS. a Patent on FAT makes NO sense.

Devils advocate (1, Redundant)

Syncdata (596941) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878361)

Was not Linux merely a hacked version of unix?
Yes, yes, I know they are not the same. But neither is 32mb and 2gb.

Re:Devils advocate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878411)

The sizes 32mb and 2gb are never mentioned.

Re:About time... (5, Interesting)

emtechs (770821) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878396)

The patent only applies to the method used to store long filenames without much change to the underlying 8.3 file name system.

Scary: That's patent worthy.

Scarier: There were three prior patents covering the technique...

Re:About time... (3, Funny)

mattjb0010 (724744) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878402)

Was not FAT12 (DOS 2.0) not actually an extension of the CP/M file system?

So you're saying MS grew FAT on other people's work?

First Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878224)

First Post!

Donald Duck (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878337)

Donald Duck is having a SCREAMIN SQUIRMIN ORGASM because YOU FAIL IT.

asd (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878225)

asd

why now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878229)

Why not earlier, if they had this prior art?

Re:why now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878261)

"They" means Dan Ravicher (PubPat), not the USPTO. Apparently PubPat has located prior art and is using it to challenge the patent.

Anti-trust? (5, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878327)

Shameless bastards.

Microsoft has actively participated in various forums to get the world hooked on FAT. Now they're wanting to charge for it.... Part of how they got there was by exerting their power over the desktops (which smells of anti-trust). For example FAT is part of the SmartMedia spec and has got incorporated into SmartMedia cards and hence the peripherals. I bet Microsoft would have refused to get involved with a non-FAT file system and essentiually the camera etc vendors had to choose between some other standard and being able to hook their cameras to Windows PCs.

Now there are a lot of other flash file systems out there that work with SmartMedia cards etc, but they are not supported by MS and never will be.

Re:Anti-trust? (1)

FrYGuY101 (770432) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878377)

The same thing happened with Unisys and the LZW patent and their attempt to charge fees on GIFs. My bet is the same thing will happen in the end... their strategy of ignoring the use of their pattern until the format becomes ubiquitous to start charging backfires, as the widespread usage pretty much places it in the public domain... Then again, I ain't a lawyer. Just random musings...

Re:Anti-trust? (2, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878417)

I don't think the Unisys thing would be considered anti-trust since they did not use a position of power to influence the uptake of GIF. (ie. they didn't say "we own graphics so you better use GIF").

I don't know... (5, Funny)

ATAMAH (578546) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878231)

I for one am sick of this patenting frenzy. What will they do when there is nothing left to patent? ...oh, hold on, i know - they'll start suing.

Re:I don't know... (5, Insightful)

Dejitaru Neko (771563) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878300)

I really hate to sound like a troll (and I left out any "???" step), but...

1. Patent random, generic idea
2. Sit on patent
3. Sue people
4. Profit!

It seems to me to be a trend all too often in the world today, particularly with software. Heh, I wonder what the world would be like if the first caveman to make fire had patented the process of creating friction by rubbing two sticks together.

In regards to this context, I do not see why Microsoft should hold any power with this patent, seeing as how they sat around and let people adopt the format as a de facto standard. It's not like there is any secret to it, and I see it as just another plan of theirs to make people dependent on them and then extort them. The first hit is always free, huh?

I'm sick of the wording of patents... (1)

Deraj DeZine (726641) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878450)

touted by Microsoft as being 'the ubiquitous, indispensable filesystem format utilized for the interchange of data files and other media between computers and components within said computers such as hard drives and floppy drives, and, since the advent of inexpensive, removable solid-state flash memory modules, also between digital consumer electronics devices including, but not limited to, PDAs, digital cameras, digital camcorders, USB watches, and small USB solid-state flash memory module-based portable high-speed aerodynamic happy ultra X-treme fubar frobnified xyzzy data storage devices.

How exactly does this work? (1)

bsharitt (580506) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878234)

Would this patent affect anything that remotely interacts with FAT even just reading, or just things that write and creat FAT file systems.

Re:How exactly does this work? (1)

WwWonka (545303) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878356)

Would this patent affect anything that remotely interacts with FAT...

God I hope not. I unknowingly tend to interact with FAT myself around bar time on the weekends.

Re:How exactly does this work? (1)

sharkb8 (723587) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878358)

They are currently just requesting reexamination of the basic FAT patent. It takes forever to draft the re-exam requests, so I think they're just trying to get a foor in the door on the FAT patent nonsense.

Re:How exactly does this work? (2, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878397)

While the patent stands it impacts on any device/product that implements FAT. Examples: Operating systems that implement FAT; CDs with such software; PCs loaded with such software; cameras, MP3 players etc with Compact Flash/SmartMedia etc cards; media (floppy disks, Compact Flash, SmartMedia cards,...) pre-formatted with FAT.

Re:How exactly does this work? (1)

emtechs (770821) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878456)

As I recall there were a few device manufacturers (MP3 players, smartcard/CF readers, digital cameras) that signed on as licensees. I can't think of too many read-only FAT devices.... but if you limited your device to FAT16 (sort file names) you wouldn't be covered by this particular patent.

Ownership (0, Troll)

nonewshere (693344) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878239)

so just exactly what percentage of the patent office does microsoft own?

Microsoft hasn't . . . (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878240)

. . . bought off PUBAT yet? Given M$' track record with the EU and Sun, I figured they'd throw some money at the problem until it shut up.

The key word is yet (0, Troll)

MacFury (659201) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878309)

bought off PUBAT yet?

They key word being yet. This will turn into some type of out of court settlement rather quickly. M$ doesn't follow by the legal system's rules, it writes them.

Re:The key word is yet (1)

nonewshere (693344) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878319)

"Writes them", don't you mean buys them!

Re:Microsoft hasn't . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878376)

If Dan Ravicher wanted money, why did he quit a job with a big New York law firm to start a non-profit?

FAT Stolen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878251)

IIRC the FAT file system "borrowed" was from some other prexisting system.

Re:FAT Stolen? (4, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878360)

Lieke Edison "inventing" the light bulb etc, the true history of invention can be adjusted by suitable PR. The problem with a patent is that it stands until it is overturned. That MS only got the patent in 1996 means that they must have fought a long hard battle (like the Texas Instrument microchip one) to get the patent.

Why wait until now to pursue it? Well if they'd kicked off an action in 1996 the mass of consumer electronic devices (cameras, MP3s etc) would likely not have adopted FAT.

They request all kinds of Patent re-examinations.. (4, Interesting)

sharkb8 (723587) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878256)

If you're a lawyer-type interested in technology, send them an email.

They have several interesting projects on patent re-examination, commentary on the patent process, etc.

Re:They request all kinds of Patent re-examination (1)

irokitt (663593) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878314)

Did you know that Einstein was working as a patent clerk while he was developing his theory of Special Relativity? Apparently he had some time on his hands, but imagine what some of his contemporaries might have thought about "that upstart clerk" ;)

I've never heard of the Publlic Patent Foundation (4, Interesting)

KarmaOverDogma (681451) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878258)

until now, but I love what I see as the idea behind the work they are doing: Fighting unwarranted, unfounded and/or improperly sworn/filed patents

Go get 'em!

.

In other News... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878265)

Microsoft has annouced it's purchase of United States Patent and Trademark Office.....SCO has been issued a patent for unix....the RIAA has been issued a patent for sound .....the MPAA has been issued a patent for light.....

Re:In other News... (2, Funny)

rock_climbing_guy (630276) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878354)

Hold it right there! That MPAA patent on light infringes on my patent on the electromatic force. have patents pending on gravity and the strong and weak nuclear forces.

Re:In other News... (2, Funny)

nonewshere (693344) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878385)

sorry but your patents infringe on my patents for filing frivilous patents

Re:In other News... (1)

irokitt (663593) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878392)

Your patent for the force of gravity infringes on my patent for the creation of planetary systems orbiting around a star. My lawyer will be contacting you.


"Life is white
And I am black
Jesus and his lawyer
Are coming back..."

-E, The Eels, "Novacaine for the Soul"

Correct me if i'm wrong .. (5, Insightful)

naden (206984) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878267)

But doesn't this just validate that the patent system albeit a little broken generally works.

Surely everyone has to realise that patent officers can't be geniuses in their respective fields, because the genuieses are off inventing and discovering things.

Hence the onus should be on making it easy to revoke granted patents the minute prior art is discovered. Otherwise it could take patent officers years to validate each patent.

Re:Correct me if i'm wrong .. (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878317)

Surely everyone has to realise that patent officers can't be geniuses in their respective fields, because the genuieses are off inventing and discovering things.

Well, there was this guy named Einstein, ever heard of him? ;)

Seriously, no, most patent examiners aren't geniuses, nor should they need to be. They should definitely be technically competent, though. It occurs to me that with all the out-of-work techies, and the flood of tech patents coming through (many of which should never be granted) there's a real opportunity here ...

And the system that gives the patent applicant the responsibility for the search for prior art seems absurd to me. Who the hell is going to put effort into finding something that will invaildate his own application?

Obligatory Family Guy Quote (5, Funny)

Dejitaru Neko (771563) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878359)

Well, there was this guy named Einstein, ever heard of him? ;)

Einstein: What is it you would like to patent?
Smith: I call it Smith's Theory of Relativity.
Einstein: ... *ruffles through the pages, knocks Smith unconscious, and runs off with the papers*

Re:Correct me if i'm wrong .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878400)

at first that sounds good.

but then again, a patent is a powerfully awesome thing, its a govt granted monopoly on something.

i think that should take years to obtain.

a patent is a powerful piece of paper, that should only be given when its truly deserved.

right now the mentality of it is, fill out the papers, some will work out.

i dont mean to totally discredit what youy said., just add some perspective, because its a complicated issue.
thats the problem with the idea.

Re:Correct me if i'm wrong .. (4, Insightful)

DarkZero (516460) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878483)

Correct me if i'm wrong ..

But doesn't this just validate that the patent system albeit a little broken generally works.


If giving a patent to anyone for anything that sounds vaguely technical and then waiting for the real inventor to come and prove himself, in spite of the fact that there are many people on the government's payroll with the job title of "patent examiner", is a system that "generally works", then I'd like to know what qualifies as "broken".

heh (3, Insightful)

DarkHelmet (120004) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878276)

was obvious and, as such, should have never been granted

Like really... I mean, parts of the human genome are "obvious" and therefore shouldn't be patented.... no wait...

Hey.... (0, Offtopic)

ambienceman (721763) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878278)

stop being so biased...I use HFS...

And my name is Rick James, bitchhhhhh

Re:Hey.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878305)

Rick James beats his dick like it owes him money, bitch.

Re:Hey.... (2, Funny)

ambienceman (721763) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878355)

That's why I'm makin' money off of Mr. Chappelle's stupid jokes, bitch. I got people pickin' up the greatest hits left and right. Goddam, I mean people who didn't even know who I was are callin' themselves the ol' boy Rick James. But get it right...

I'm Rick James, bitch... The original

And I Think Different. I have an Apple - G3 Pismo

Bill Gates and FAT don't got shit on me, Steve, and HFS, bitchhh

Wait a minute... (4, Funny)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878279)

The ubiquitous format for exchanging mediums between computers? What about CD-ROMS? *coughISO-9960cough*

It can't be a MS format, otherwise all my Microsoft-approved CDs from 10+ years ago wouldn't work in my new Microsoft CD-ROM drive with my Microsoft operating system.

Re:Wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878499)

ISO-9960 is designed for write-once.

Fat's no big deal... (1)

MrRuslan (767128) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878288)

even if the paten would not get revoked altogh it should there are pleant of file systems that major company's can standardize on...it will be a pain it the ass for a little but cmon...pick one of the many better filesystems...write a driver for oses and devices and microsoft can go screw itself...

Re:Fat's no big deal... (1, Insightful)

inertia@yahoo.com (156602) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878458)

No big deal?? Every disk that's preformatted with FAT is grounds for a retroactive refund. That means every preformatted thumb drive, flashcard, zip disk, stuper disk, and FLOPPY DISK since 1996 would be due if it were retroactive. I have no idea how many that is, but they've been paying Microsoft for a pretty long while, and it's no small amount, I'm sure.

Donate! (5, Informative)

Dwonis (52652) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878289)

Don't forget to donate [pubpat.org] !

Hopefully more to come! (4, Insightful)

code_echelon (709189) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878290)

One down, hundreds to go!

The patent process has become a hindrance to software development in many cases and it should definitely be much harder to get patent of this kind. Hopefully more patents in the U.S. and worldwide get challenged and discarded.

new != original (2, Interesting)

acidrain (35064) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878294)

How about a law that says a typical individual trained in the relevant art cannot reinvent the patented material in less than an hour? Just because you thought of it first does not make it original.

Re:new != original (1)

sharkb8 (723587) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878330)

from dictionary.com:
original:
Preceding all others in time; first

And IIRC, patents don't have to be original, an invention can improve significantly on another invention and be patented. There have been something like 300 patents for the paper clip granted.

Re:new != original (1)

Dejitaru Neko (771563) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878472)

I wish some of those patent holders would make Microsoft lose that stupid anthropomorphic paper clip in Word.

Erghh (3, Funny)

l0ungeb0y (442022) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878295)

I'm not too up on Windows but isn't FAT depricated?
IIRC it's all about NTFS these days and FAT is mainly used for dual-boot linux situations or where you need backward compatabilty. So if correct, this dispute shouldn't be monumental, but still interesting. Good to see some one's out there trying to kill off as many bogus patents as possible, though I'm sure no one envies that job.
Also I'm still surprised no ones show up with archaeological evidence showing that Windows was first used in earthen hovels eons ago.

Re:Erghh (5, Informative)

kasek (514492) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878316)

sure, NTFS is the file system of choice for newer windows boxes. but there are still plenty of other devices using the FAT system, such as digital cameras, mp3 players, personal video recorders, etc. still plenty of money to be made.

Re:Erghh (3, Informative)

MinusOne (4145) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878336)

> I'm not too up on Windows but isn't FAT depricated?

Maybe for PC OSes, but have you used a CF or SD card in a digital camera? Or a memory stick? or any other small portable data container? They all use FAT32 or some related FS. The inneficeincies of teh format don't really apply to the media like that.

In other news... (5, Funny)

FrYGuY101 (770432) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878296)

Microsoft's patent on SUGAR and PROTEIN also being reviewed after a mysterious figure known only as 'god' claimed to invent them...

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878334)

Pretty funny faggot

Bless PUBPAT (5, Insightful)

emtechs (770821) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878307)

I hadn't heard of PUBPAT before but in a cursory glance at their site they seem to be making the 'DUH!' exclaimations so many of us do when we see a dumb patent - but in formal requests to the USPTO.

It has been quite frustrating to see companies not bother to take these steps. Corporations with significant IP portfolios tend to let it slide knowing that they can just exchange usage of their own silly patent rights if there was ever friction. In the end only the new players (aka innovators!) are victims.

Open source patent office? (4, Interesting)

Atario (673917) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878308)

Is it possible to make patent approvals open-source? Which is to say, volunteers (preferably, whole teams thereof) would do the work done now by individual patent clerks (Patent reviewers? Whatever they're called), with all decisions publicly reviewable and modifiable.

Re:Open source patent office? (5, Insightful)

Ieshan (409693) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878348)

It's called Science.

Here's how it works.

You discover something. To let everyone know about it, you write a paper, and you send it off to a journal. That Journal has other experts in the field read what you've done. If they like it, they tell everyone else about it by printing it up in this little book. If they don't, they tell you to a) revise it, or b) go away.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure thats what you're looking for.

Re:Open source patent office? (5, Insightful)

sn2k (749579) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878429)

Is it possible to make patent approvals open-source?
No I can hardly believe somebody could seriously sugest this. There is no way that everybody is going to agree on whether or not every patent is valid. In fact, a bigger problem is what would stop people with a conflict of interest in getting involved. I could just imagine Microsoft or another company paying people to "volunteer" and aprove every one of their patents. Or you could look at it the other way. I'm sure that slashdot and a bunch of other anti-microsoft sites could go and invalidate every one of microsoft's patents.

old news (0, Offtopic)

deathazre (761949) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878325)

got posted earlier today [slashdot.org] ... er... yesterday now I guess.

About time (4, Informative)

davmoo (63521) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878349)

I remember file systems based around the ideas of FAT at least back to the Apple II+. And if I'm not mistaken, Apple's literature referred to it as "FAT" (I wish now I hadn't given all that old stuff away a few years ago).

I don't see how this patent could possibly be held valid...well...wait a minute...this is the US Patent Office we're talking about here. We should be afraid.

Re:About time (4, Informative)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878478)

"And if I'm not mistaken, Apple's literature referred to it as "FAT" (I wish now I hadn't given all that old stuff away a few years ago)."

Don't think so...
From 'Beneath Apple DOS', the major structural elements are..

VTOC - Volume Table of Contents
The Catalog - Kind of obvious
The Track/Sector List - Also kind of obvious

The freedom to steal! (1)

Phidoux (705500) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878364)

Ooooops! I mean innovate!

It's actually the long file names patent (5, Informative)

mistshadow (35753) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878382)

If you go to their "Activities" page and read the request itself, they are talking about:

5,579,517

which covers the "long file names" stuff Windows 95 introduced, and they site two patents:

5,307,494 to Yasumatsu et al., and
5,367,671 to Feigenbaum et al.

as new prior art.

LOL! (0, Offtopic)

Daanji (631740) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878393)

Did anyone else read "PUBPAT" and instantly think pubic? What a name!

To Microsoft's credit.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878399)

In their original FAT patent announcement, they mentioned that they weren't trying to enforce it against software.

Not that it should exist at all, of course...

But let's give them credit when they only score a 5 on the evil scale instead of their normal 8 or 9.

And now you'll see how the patent system works... (5, Insightful)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878409)

...I mean, really works.

Before, the patent (on browser plugins) being challenged belonged to an individual who was suing Microsoft and even managed to get an injunction (can't remember whether they actually ordered Microsoft to pay or not).

That patent was quickly challenged and nullified. While the w3c and other groups initiated the challenge, I think the reason the patent was nullified was that it belonged to someone who was being used to (successfully) target Microsoft.

Now the patent being challenged belongs to Microsoft, and is being challenged by some small-time nobody (as far as Big Business is concerned).

My prediction is that either the challenge itself will be rejected, or the patent office will "review" the patent and find it "valid". Not because of any merits the patent may have, but because of who owns it. The guys running the patent office know who butters their bread, and it ain't organizations like PUBPAT.

Don't buy into it. (5, Interesting)

pb (1020) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878413)

Microsoft's 'FAT' patents do not patent FAT... specifically, they patent the VFAT extensions to FAT. And, as was previously mentioned on slashdot, there's much prior art to using long file names on FAT as well.

So don't call them 'FAT' patents, because they aren't. Call them VFAT patents. Or call them by their names, which also makes it obvious.

Re:Don't buy into it. (0, Troll)

nonewshere (693344) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878437)

is V-FAT some vague referance to viagria?

The Fat patent (-1, Troll)

dj245 (732906) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878469)

We all know Microsoft is going to win this one.

If it comes down to it, chubby Gates will just crush them with his big fat wallet.

ba boom ching!

Something doesn't add up (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8878477)

Here's the arithmetic: 2013 - 1996 = 17 - the standard patent lifespan (unless you're a pharmaceutical company, but that's another story for another day).

FAT was in use well before 1996 but 1996 is when the patent was approved|awarded (which is what everyone needs to pay attention to when they scream bloody murder in other postings.

Now, you have to wonder how long a business has to sit on material before they submit it to the patent office. This is generally one year. Even in spite of this, that's 1995. That's still much later than when FAT was first used.

I know we all like to see Micro$oft get slapped around, but I think this is another case of jay walking and faking being hit by car to file a law suit. If this [even] gets past the preliminaries, it'll be settled out of courts for a reasonably small, undisclosed sum of money.

So what do we think? (0, Offtopic)

mattgreen (701203) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878491)

I wish Slashdot would stop posting stories like this, I don't know what to think when the evil Microsoft runs afoul of patents. Maybe the editors could put something in the summary so we wouldn't have to think these things through. I shudder at the mere suggestion of doing so!

4DOS? (5, Interesting)

Cryptnotic (154382) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878500)

Didn't 4DOS [gci275.com] support long filenames on top of FAT long before VFAT (Windows 95) did?

I'm pretty sure I remember using 4DOS around the DOS 3.3 to DOS 5.0 days.

Did anyone bother to read these patents? (5, Informative)

micron (164661) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878508)

These patents are not for the FAT file system. IANAL. The Microsoft one is for long file name support that goes on top of the FAT file system. The "prior art" one (5307494) describes some sort of long file name support augmenting a specific file system, but does not state which file system from what I can tell.

Give Them Money (3, Interesting)

Bob9113 (14996) | more than 10 years ago | (#8878514)

I just gave them the $72.38 I had sitting in my PayPal account. Stupid software patents have cost me a lot more than that in time reading Slashdot articles alone. Give till it hurts.

The "Online" link on this page [pubpat.org] will take you straight to PayPal.
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