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Germany Rejects Microsoft FAT Patent

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the skinny-on-inventiveness dept.

Patents 162

Askmum writes in with news that a German patent court has ruled Microsoft's patent on FAT invalid in that country, finding that it is "not based on inventive activity." Just one of 6,000-odd patents Microsoft has amassed since a 1991 memo from Bill Gates turned around the company's attitude to patents.

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1980 (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361403)

Are they ruling on the oldest patents first? Its going to take a long time to reject all 6,000.

Re:1980 (2, Interesting)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361671)

Probably not, they are unlikely to look at patents that haven't expired.

Sadly most of MS's patents are post 95 by the article (they had around 100 in 95, 1000 in 99 and 6000 now If I remember correctly?)

Ya gotta fight fire with fire (4, Insightful)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361411)

I don't fault MSFT for patenting everything they can. Apple does it, Google does it, everyone does it. Eolas does it.

The system is broken. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361563)

The system is broken. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

We hate MS for many reasons. Just because we hate the patent system too, doesn't mean we cant enjoy a little chuckle when MS takes a much needed slap.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (5, Insightful)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361641)

Yes, you hate MSFT for all the business practices you love from Apple or Google.

I know slashdot is a bunch of young'uns who personify corporations as either friend or foe.

I'm just pointing out that corporations are things, not beings, and they are a part of a system, and behave as they are supposed to within the system.

It's the system that was set up to allow robber barons to swindle stockholders, stifle innovation with patents, and clog our legal system with crap.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (4, Insightful)

mstahl (701501) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361759)

While it may be best to think of corporations as things and not beings (I don't think it's healthy to think of them as best buddies or arch nemeses either), there really isn't much personification going on. They actually are (at least in the US) legally identical to individuals. That's in the sense that they can commit crimes and get sued or pay taxes.

It's probably a good thing that corporations can't get married.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (4, Insightful)

mpe (36238) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362783)

They actually are (at least in the US) legally identical to individuals. That's in the sense that they can commit crimes and get sued or pay taxes.

Except that corporations don't tend to have their freedoms constrained at the point they are charged with a crime. Not many real people can be "business as usual" whilst awaiting a trial, let alone only only have their lawyers attend the trial. Even if found guilty there is no corporate equivalent of a prison sentence. When it comes to criminal law corporations and individuals are treated (very) differently. Even if the same statute theoretically applies to both situations.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (1, Interesting)

RyanL2112 (1058160) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364371)

Even if found guilty there is no corporate equivalent of a prison sentence.
uhhh... I'm pretty sure a huge ass fine that puts the company into bankruptcy and/or out of business could be equated to a loss in freedoms.

See, THAT'S your problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361889)

People not liking MS. Nothing to do with Apple or patents but you don't like the dislike of MS.

MS are trying like billy-o to get SW patents in other countries. Does that sound like someone who's not part of the problem?

No.

MS are hated because they are a binch of arrogant lying manipulative and ignorant bastards. Most of the *people* aren't that, mind, but the corporation and the people *as a group* are.

Apple are *sometimes* forgiven but not always. MS are forgiven (as per your post) but not always.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (5, Insightful)

kcbrown (7426) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361989)

I'm just pointing out that corporations are things, not beings, and they are a part of a system, and behave as they are supposed to within the system.

Not really.

Corporations are supposed to act in the best interests of the society in which they function first and foremost. If that were not the case, then a corporate charter and business license wouldn't be required, now would it?

The problem is that most people have lost sight of that fact. In exchange for limited liability and effective immortality, corporations are supposed to act with restraint. And in a sane, balanced society, such restraint would be enforced by the revocation of corporate charters in the case of misconduct, just like it was done in the (relatively) distant past.

People like you have been brainwashed to believe that it's okay for corporations to act in evil ways (if intentionally harming others for personal gain isn't evil, then I don't know what is) because "they're responsible to their shareholders" or some such bullshit.

But it's not okay. It never has been. Such behaviour is very harmful, and many ills of the world exist because of it. You might say that it's the responsibility of the government to hold corporations accountable for their actions and you would be right about that. But that in no way excuses the behaviour of corporations. That someone might not have been punished for murder doesn't make the act any less wrong.

People like you need to wake up, and fast, because we're almost out of time. The U.S. is pretty much unrecoverable now but there's still time for the rest of the world. But if corporations aren't held to a much higher standard than we hold them to now, it won't be long before they rule the rest of the world the way they rule the U.S.

And trust me, that would be a bad thing for just about everyone. The experience with the British East India Company is one of the things that led to the founding of the United States, after all.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (2, Informative)

mpe (36238) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362587)

The problem is that most people have lost sight of that fact. In exchange for limited liability and effective immortality, corporations are supposed to act with restraint.

The term "limited liability" started off with one specific meaning. That was that shareholders' financial liability was limited to the amount of their investment. i.e. if the enterprise failed the worst that could happen is that they would have some worthless pieces of paper, creditors could not persue the "owners" of the business. Nothing to do with the idea of a business not being liable for the consequences of the actions of its executives.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18364209)

Yea, but shareholders certainly have "limited liability" when it comes to criminal acts committed by their company.

Shareholders should be held personally responsible for criminal acts by the corporation they're funding. This will encourage them to choose rather more ethical criteria when voting in executives.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (1)

k1e0x (1040314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364055)

You blame corporations and cite government as the solution to the problem but in reality it is government's involvement in business that creates a need to incorporate in the first place. We don't need more government control of business, we need less. What we want is to create an environment where "real people" control their own business and not fictional unethical money making monstrosities.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (2, Insightful)

Bozdune (68800) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364665)

Yes, this is the classic Libertarian argument. The robber barons of the 19th and early 20th century wouldn't have amassed their monopolies had it not been for government regulations that allowed them to do so, blah blah blah.

Unfortunately for the Libertarians, laissez-faire capitalism is unstable. One company will emerge as the leader; and if it behaves rationally it will ruthlessly eliminate its opponents by out-competing them and out-spending them. Government is often an enabler in this process, but even if it wasn't there at all, the end result would still be the same -- monopoly.

Should AT&T have been broken up? No? Then are you interested in paying $30 for a long-distance call? Don't worry, it may still happen if the FCC continues to rule in favor of putting AT&T back together again, and in favor of locking everyone else out of the "last mile" wires.

The answer is not "less" government regulation, but "better" government regulation. Unfortunately, since government is corruptible, it tends to enable monopolists like Microsoft to persist until the abuses become so apparent that even a suitcase full of cash can't keep the politicians in office. Then, finally, they'll act -- but not before.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (1)

k1e0x (1040314) | more than 7 years ago | (#18365059)

Well I disagree with you, and I'll just simply say that I'll take less or no government control over more better and new and improved control any day.

If end result is always monopoly why is something as massive as K-Mart almost history now? Something came along that was better and the monopoly disappeared overnight. Same thing would happen to AT&T.. if they start charging $30 per minute, people will move en-mass to something else. Freedom ensures choice.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18362459)

I'm na youngun... I'm goddmit 41 yers old... I "hate" microsoft for the same fucking reason I've hated IBM back in the '80: it is a monopoly wich is trying to control the whole IT business and harming both the users and other IT companies. Our PC's wouldn't be a 1990 Camaro with dual compressor and turbocharger... it would have been the goddamn spaceship Enterprise... if mr. Microsoft didn't dictate how a PC should be...

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18364699)

That's such bollocks it defies belief. The computer you have now is pretty much what Moore's Law said it would be.

No big loss (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361621)

We've got other things to hate them for.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (-1, Troll)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361745)

MS is still a bunch of douchebags for playing in the broken system though.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (2, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361815)

No, MS is executing it's legal obligations to maximize profit. It *is* the system that your ire should be directed at in this case. I notice you didn't make mention of Apple, etc. They *all* do it, and currently they have to.

Fix the patent system, and save your ire towards MS for things like illegally leveraging their monopoly power.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (1)

MojoRilla (591502) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364605)

Fix the patent system, and save your ire towards MS for things like illegally leveraging their monopoly power.
But illegally leveraging their monopoly power is exactly what Microsoft is trying to do with their FAT patents. The FAT file system isn't useful to anyone besides someone trying to interoperate with Microsoft Windows. Microsoft's targets in their licencing efforts [microsoft.com] have been to go after removable media vendors and consumer electronics companies. The only value the FAT patents have for these companies is to interoperate with Microsoft Windows, otherwise they would use some other royalty free alternative.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (1)

SpaghettiCoder (1073236) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361841)

I agree. But I wouldn't want any revision of copyright laws to have any kind of global scope whatsoever. The problem is mostly the dodgy legal system in the USA, so the its partly contained for the time being.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (4, Interesting)

Scott7477 (785439) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361925)

I agree with you. The article in ArsTechnica pointed out that at the time of the memo, Microsoft's position in the market was radically different than it is today. MS was a relatively small company compared to the big boys in the enterprise world like IBM and Sun and Novell. The way software was distributed was totally different as well. Given that the Internet was primarily an academic and military system at the time, companies were still sending you boxes of floppies. I recall from graduate school at that time seeing a business plan that contemplating distributing software through vending machines! It seems absurd now, but at the time it wasn't that far out of the ball park. In any case, based on reading the excerpt from the memo, Gates was trying to figure out how best to make money from the business of writing software. Today, the open source community is in the same boat. We want non-restrictive licenses (like MIT's), but also want to put food on the table.

I don't excuse MS's anti-competitive business practices, and a lot of their frankly dumb decisions over the years. But I can see where Gates has something of a point. To me, since software costs practically nothing to copy, the primary way to make a profit at software is in support. Most general-use software is rather simple to produce these days (see how many different text editors there are). So I don't think most types of software should be patentable.

Vending machines (1)

tuxic (769908) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362945)

I recall from graduate school at that time seeing a business plan that contemplating distributing software through vending machines! It seems absurd now, but at the time it wasn't that far out of the ball park

Actually, these days there are a couple of vending machines for iPod purchases available at airports http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/security/?p=41/ [com.com] . Therefore today I wouldn't think of software sold via a vending machine to be absurd, but several years ago? Yes.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (1, Interesting)

hxnwix (652290) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362205)

Did you know that Microsoft is a key supporter of software patents worldwide? They're not just abusing the system - they helped create it.

So yes. I do blame them.

Re:Ya gotta fight fire with fire (1)

llamadillo (936949) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364405)

I believe it's actually spelled "playa," but I agree with you completely.

The question is, what's the solution? To some extent, I think that the same methodology used for pharmaceutical patents could be applied. Pharmaceutical patents are granted for 20 years and after that anyone can make a generic version of the drug.

20 years is way too long in the computing world, though. For example, with some notable exceptions, software projects go from planning->release much more quickly than a drug will go from research->distribution. (Methinks that much of the time discrepancy may have to do with the public's tolerance for defects in the respective products.) Also, while I can see people (mostly men) being big fans of Viagra years down the road, I don't see people being so wild about Windows 3.1 in the future.

Regardless, legally protecting your product's uniqueness will encourage continued innovation. After that, all that's left is to develop something useful. Or useless, but with good marketing.

Sorry but, (4, Funny)

Jason Hood (721277) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361435)

this patent is only valid in the US and Samoa. Germany has no right to allow any Fat patents.

Re:Sorry but, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361483)

Never been to Bavaria, obviously...

(anonymous because I'm posting from the most obese nation in Europe, and it ain't Germany)

Re:Sorry but, (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361559)

now what's this? a dig at an "yo filesystem so FAT, it got rejected by germany"? weak. just weak.

Re:Sorry but, (4, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362345)

"now what's this? a dig at an "yo filesystem so FAT, it got rejected by germany"? weak. just weak."

Yo mama's so fat we had to format her with NTFS.

What about? (0)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361449)

What about the thin MS patents?

Inquiring mind demand to know!

Because... (0, Redundant)

paulpach (798828) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361469)

Germans have always preferred skinny patents

Prior Art (-1, Troll)

Picass0 (147474) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361501)


Germany had many FAT people before Microsoft sought the patent.

They are, after all, the Land of Chocolate.

MMmmmm... The Land of Chocolate...

Real land of chocolate (1)

Rastignac (1014569) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361561)

Switzerland is the real land of chocolate, not Germany.

Re:Real land of chocolate (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361599)

Not Switzerland either. It's Belgium.

Re:Real land of chocolate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361695)

swiss chocolate is also considered a delicacy, though they are more known for cuckoo (sp?) clocks

Re:Real land of chocolate (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361743)

Swiss chocolate is usually not real chocolate but milk chocolate. No one making this weak fake chocolate deserves the title of "land of chocolate"

Re:Real land of chocolate (1)

Gr8Apes (679165) | more than 7 years ago | (#18363573)

While Belgium makes lots of chocolate, the best chocolate I've had by far is from Holland, which is also the land of cheese. Belgium is the land of beer. France, champagne and perhaps some reds and food made out of things you'd scrape off your shoe, Italy also has red wine, and Germany white whine and sausages.

There - if I left anything out - someone's sure to come along and point that out.

Re:Real land of chocolate (1)

apathy maybe (922212) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361619)

Actually ...

The cocoa bean comes from South America (though most of it is now grown in West Africa). So while Switzerland may make a lot of chocolate it can't really claim to be the "Land of Chocolate".

Re:Prior Art (1)

lukas84 (912874) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361573)

No.

Greetings from Switzerland.

Re:Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361627)

That would be Switzerland (or perhaps Belgium, though they are known more for the pralines they make out of chocolate than their chocolate). Germany is the land of beer.

Re:Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361721)

... and wrong again ! Belgium really is the land of beer.

Re:Prior Art (1)

tedric (8215) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361735)

Well, Germany may be famous for beer, but the history of beer dates back to ancient Egypt. We aren't even world champions in drinking beer any more. The Czech Republic has a higher per capita consumption than Germany.

Re:Prior Art (1)

will.perdikakis (1074743) | more than 7 years ago | (#18363831)

Ireland has more drunks per capita than people.

Re:Prior Art (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361717)

Germany is the land of beer.

And beer festivals. Yum...

Hmm.. (4, Funny)

SevenHands (984677) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361569)

Doesn't McDonalds already own this patent in Germany?

"FAT" - who cares? (0)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361585)

"FAT" - who cares? Even Microsoft essentially dumped that format almost a decade ago.

Re:"FAT" - who cares? (5, Insightful)

Noryungi (70322) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361709)

Whoa!

Not so fast! Off the top of my head, there is a lot of stuff that still uses FAT: SD-Card, USB sticks, most of the little thingie you stick into a cell phone, a digital camera, and use in embedded systems. Basically everything that can emulate (and does emulate) a floppy disk And what about real floppy disks themselves?

FAT has got a lot of problems, but it's convenient, simple to implement, and relatively stable. And most of the systems in use today can read and write to it (Linux, BSD, Solaris, Windows, MacOS, you name it), so it is also convenient for quickly transferring data from those small thingamajigs into you main PeeCee.

So yeah, FAT is here to stay. It does not do a lot, but what it does, it does well. And that's why rejecting the FAT patent in Germany is Good News(tm).

Re:"FAT" - who cares? (1)

zotz (3951) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361715)

Lots of people care...

camera memory, flash drives, ... ???

all the best,

drew

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=834CMndtLqA [youtube.com]

Re:"FAT" - who cares? (2, Informative)

fjf33 (890896) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361741)

Not really, FAT is still critical for small devices like memory sticks, flash, etc where the fact that FAT is lightweight make a significant difference. The moment you encumber it with patents, then devices like cameras, mp3 players, etc would have to potentially pay microsoft royalties.

Ahem... (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361779)

Considering that they don't use NTFS in SD, MMC, CF, xD, etc. cards (Or ext2/ext3, etc...)
and they use FAT32 for those for interoperability with everything, MS claiming they have
a patent on that file format and everybody owes them royalties...

Re:"FAT" - who cares? (1)

J0nne (924579) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361825)

FAT is still used today in some small devices (MP3 players and such) and is useful if you want to share files between different operating systems (Windows, OS X and Linux). Read/Write support for FAT is included by default in all 3 operating systems. AFAIK, there's no other filesystem that is commonly supported like that.

FUSE/ntfs-3g is changing this, though, so now at least Linux and Windows can read/write to a common file system now, and FUSE works on Mac OS X too (but it's not easy to install yet. Maybe Apple will include a fork in a future update and claim it's an innovation, but that's a whole other story).

Re:"FAT" - who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361837)

Cool where do you get Digital cameras that use NTFS as a format? how about mp3 players?

you must know where all these devices that dont use fat are because you are proclaiming that it is "dead".

so please list the number of cheap and high end Digital cameras that do not use FAT on the memory cards they use.

Even the Expensive brand new Hassleblad digital they bought here at work uses it, so it must wither be really low end for your standards or you are full of shit.

I bet the latter.

Re:"FAT" - who cares? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361977)

Can't speak for NTFS, but my mp3 player uses HFS+ as a filesystem, which both linux and osx can access perfectly well.

On the other hand, a new filesystem designed specifically for embedded use would probably be a worthwhile development, and perhaps these patents will cause someone to do just that. Not that microsoft aren't too arrogant to include support for anyone else's filesystem.

Re:"FAT" - who cares? (1)

Cal Paterson (881180) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362957)

Can't speak for NTFS, but my mp3 player uses HFS+ as a filesystem, which both linux and osx can access perfectly well.


If you're referring to some kind of Ipod, bear in mind that previously, Apple would format the Ipod differently depending on the host OS that it was first used on. Nowadays though, they've dropped that, and use FAT32 on all Ipods.

Re:"FAT" - who cares? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364915)

[...] Apple would format the Ipod differently depending on the host OS that it was first used on. Nowadays though, they've dropped that, and use FAT32 on all Ipods.
Really? Then why are both my 10GB iPod and 4GB iPod nano formatted with HFS+?

Re:"FAT" - who cares? (1)

LubosD (909058) | more than 7 years ago | (#18363225)

Just use ext2. It's simple, yet powerful enough.

Re:"FAT" - who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361869)

It's antiquated, yes. However, it is the most common format used for flash memory keys, digital cameras, etc., because it is simple, involves low CPU overhead to maintain, and most non-MS operating systems also support it (e.g., Linux, OS X, etc.). Despite its many limitations (two words: file fragmentation), it is *widely* used.

Plenty of people care not just for this reason, but because MS was starting to extort^H^H^H^H^H^Himplement licensing fees [theregister.co.uk] for many uses of it. For example, $0.25 per FAT preformated memory card (to a maximum of $250000). When you think about the number of cards out there, that's *alot* of money for a filesystem with ample prior art and that is borderline "obvious".

Re:"FAT" - who cares? (1)

tomstdenis (446163) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362011)

MSFT supports *reading* FAT partitions, just not *making* them. Hmm, I wonder why. It can't be to cut down on code bloat. Vista is larger than XP.

Oh, I know, OSS operating systems can read it. *dawns conspiracy hat*, maybe MSFT wants to make it even harder to work with OSS?

Tom

Re:"FAT" - who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18362465)

Oh, I know, OSS operating systems can read it. *dawns conspiracy hat*

The word you're looking for is dons, the opposite of doffs.

Something can dawn on you.
You can get up at dawn.
You don a hat, then doff it later.

Whoa!!! (2, Insightful)

Bullfish (858648) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361587)

You have to invent something to patent it! Say it ain't so! An awful lot of companies are going to go into panic over this! Why, it could threaten the entire patent holding industry!!

Is Germany allowed to patent software? (1)

javilon (99157) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361591)

I was under the impression that software patents were _not_ allowed on the whole of Europe.

Re:Is Germany allowed to patent software? (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361691)

You could argue that FAT is mechanism to allocate physical space on a storage device, and thus not "software" at all.

Re:Is Germany allowed to patent software? (4, Informative)

Scarblac (122480) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361737)

Not true. Every country has its own rules. Besides those, there's also a European patent court, which isn't actually part of the EU, just a cooperation of European countries. That court officially doesn't allow software patents but does in practice; Germany's patent law is different, I have no idea.

The "EU patent directive" and the fight over software patents that's covered now and then on /. is about a EU proposal to do away with all this and replace it by a single EU system, and about whether software patents should be part of that.

This is "Slashdot knowledge", I have no actual knowledge of law, so...

Re:Is Germany allowed to patent software? (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362431)

Don't know about the rest of EU, but here in Denmark software patents are invalid.

Re:Is Germany allowed to patent software? (1)

bentcd (690786) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361749)

I was under the impression that software patents were _not_ allowed on the whole of Europe.
That is almost correct. In Europe, software _as such_ cannot be patented. And "as such" turn out to be two very important words in this context. Patent lawyers have been very creative in getting software patented as something that is not quite software "as such". The most popular approach seems to be to patent it as software "that runs on a computer", which may or may not be different from software "as such".

Re:Is Germany allowed to patent software? (1)

teh kurisu (701097) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361817)

The fact that they have been rejected on a European level doesn't mean that individual countries can't implement them, it just means that if you patent a piece of software in one EU country there's no guarantee that it will be respected in another.

One way to look (2, Insightful)

CSHARP123 (904951) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361609)

From the second article link - Emphasis mine

If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today. I feel certain that some large company will patent some obvious thing related to interface, object orientation, algorithm, application extension or other crucial technique. If we assume this company has no need of any of our patents then they have a 17-year right to take as much of our profits as they want. The solution to this is patent exchanges with large companies and patenting as much as we can.

Now that large company is MS and is trying to patent the obvious.

Re:One way to look (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361755)

Yes, I think that is what he wanted to say there anyway. Do it before someone else does it. Put in another way, they say that they also know that their patent requests are obvious.

Re:One way to look (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362185)

<SARCASM>
No it IsNot [slashdot.org] !!!
</SARCASM>

Sarcasm tags added for the sarcasm-impaired, in compliance with the ADA.

An ideal one-liner solution to the patent law (1)

jimstapleton (999106) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361651)

Patents cannot prevent, limit or contrain the production and distribution of products made using patented technologies and methods provided that said product is distributed without financial or material recompensation either directly or for supporting good and services.

1) The market is improved by keeping patents from harming free distribution of goods and services that in general better the lives of others. [i.e. patents cannot become tools of anti-generocity and anti-benevolacne]
2) The patent holders cannot be abused by other people who want to make money off of their work without providing compensation [if such is desired].

FAT Patent? (5, Funny)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361677)

I thought it was only slightly chubby...

This is great... fta (3, Interesting)

micromuncher (171881) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361763)

FTA "[Prevents company from] lay claim to basic computing procedures that in the final analysis are trivial."

And, FAT is a trivial format, (as are Apple DOS 16, ProDOS, CODOS, and other ancient formats) but FAT has the caveat it is commonly used today in devices such as digital cameras (So pfffft on the person who said its not used.)

I completely agree with the german PO that a patent has to be on something innovative and inventive. Every time I see a patent for a double-linked list or radix sort I get the shivers.

FAT is old (5, Informative)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362005)

FAT itself was documented in 1983 (or earlier?) in Byte magazine. It can not be and is not patented today as I understand it. My understanding is that MS patented the long filename feature that came along later. Lets not confuse basic FAT functionality with long file names. It's also more interesting to call it a long filename patent, as it sounds even dumber than a FAT patent.

Re:FAT is old (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18363849)

Somebody mod this up. The same thing comes up every time this patent is mentioned. ( every time!) It's not a patent on FAT, it's a patent on patching together many 8.3 filenames to make a long name. RTFP [espacenet.com] !

I have to believe ... (2, Interesting)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 7 years ago | (#18361777)

... that this is a don't care for MS. FAT is ubiquitous - thumbdrives use it, digital cameras use it, mp3 players use it. In fact it's hard to find a piece of solid state media that doesn't come pre-formatted with FAT. Because of that, I guess I was always under the impression FAT was in the public domain; it really surprised me to see there was a patent at all. Does anyone out there know if MS collects royalties or license fees from this patent?

Re:I have to believe ... (2, Informative)

herve_masson (104332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362047)

really surprised me to see there was a patent at all

You [slashdot.org] must [slashdot.org] be [slashdot.org] new [slashdot.org] here [slashdot.org] . The last link is the reason why Germany likely felt necessary to cleanup that particular junk patent. I don't think they are in a process to cleanup the whole insane system anytime soon :) I wonder why they have to though, knowing that EU don't recognize such patent (yet).

Re:I have to believe ... (1)

LaughingCoder (914424) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362377)

Interesting. I am not new here, but I didn't happen to see those other discussions - thanks for the pointers.

Re:I have to believe ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18362395)

Keep in mind how large companies use patents. They don't care about FAT, they care that Sony wants to use it to write pictures on the SD card in your camera. Now Microsoft can pressure Sony on lots of fronts with the threat of not liscensing them to use FAT at all. Not a big bomb, but a nice bullet to have.

Re:I have to believe ... (1)

Herve5 (879674) | more than 7 years ago | (#18363093)

read the end of the article. MS proposes licences @ $250000 for very precisely these products...
Out of all solid-state media makers if just a couple have already paid, it's a million-dollar-worth patent...

But poor Bill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18361851)

needs the money!

FAT patent (2, Insightful)

rongage (237813) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362003)

You guys know how Microsoft folk like to toss about that Linux violates Microsoft's patents...

You guys know how "we" like to shout out "put up or shut up"...

Opportunity is right in front of our noses - right now!

Whether we think the patent is valid or not is irrelevent - it's been held as valid by the USPTO. The existance of a patent is considered prima facie evidence of validity in a court of law. It takes LOTS of money and time to get a patent declared invalid in court. LOTS of money - a million dollars would not be unusual for legal costs in a patent fight. Unless YOU have the money to put up for the fight, the battle is already lost here.

Microsoft has a valid patent on FAT (or more specifically FAT32). Linux implements FAT and FAT32. Unless someone has a signed document from Microsoft stating that Linux has a royalty-free license to use the patented technology, we are violating the patent - period.

Time to get coding - people talk about "coding around" a patent issue should one be found. Well, one has been laid directly at our feet. Time to get coding...

Re:FAT patent (1)

JonJ (907502) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362855)

How do you propose one codes around a patent?

Re:FAT patent (1)

rongage (237813) | more than 7 years ago | (#18363075)

I am not proposing that we can code around a patent. I am merely repeating what others have stated in the past.

The irony is not lost on you obviously: you can't code around a patent like this. Either you license the patent or you drop the feature.

Since I've been moderated as flamebait on this, it's obviously a touchy subject - sorry about that. The truth sucks sometimes...

Surprised they didn't come up with an alternative (2, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362029)

Isn't this the patent on the hack that allows Windows 95 file systems to be used in MSDOS? It's a hack for back compatibility for a system that's completely obselete. And I'm not sure where its used. All cameras I've used use MSDOS 8.3 filenames. Mayeba few portable devices use FAT on flash, and maybe flash relies on this method or something ut I'd have thought this would have been thought of before. Why didn't the standards organisations come up with a better, free filesystem for USB filesystem devices or for flash or something? FAT is cheap and nasty and, as I mentioned earlier, long filename support is a hack.

Re:Surprised they didn't come up with an alternati (1)

PermanentMarker (916408) | more than 7 years ago | (#18363035)

hmm you forget the historics.
Fat was allready there in the Dos age, it was simply used again in windows 95
Fat32 (long filename support) arived in win98, a kind of hack the FAT concept.

Fat16 the plain old Fat has some good and simpel concepts too.
Mainly it didnt require much overhead, as systems with long filenames have.
So because of its simplicity it has been used for a (short) while in some memory device sticks too.
But these day they are often formated to NTFS, i use NTFS on my usb sticks.
Not sure what is running my cam but it's memcard in my PDA seam to understand long file names, might be fat32.
But still there are simpel devices who can only read something as simple as a fat partition table, or cannt write long filenames. Like the devices you seam to have.

Fat is mostly simple.

FAT history (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 7 years ago | (#18363449)

Don't forget FAT12.

Real Prior Art (1)

Saffaya (702234) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362137)

Asking my elders here :

Isn't FAT a rip-off from CP/M ?
Wouldn't it be considered prior art if presented in court ?

Re:Real Prior Art (2, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362441)

No. The concepts behind FAT way predate CP/M. My guess is IBM probably developed most it. They did invent the floppy disk and they had to have some kind of format. CP/M used the 8" Floppy standard that IBM developed so I would guess it was IBM.

Microsoft's Full Patent List [Browsable] (2, Interesting)

RembrandtX (240864) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362223)

Just in case anyone was interested, here is a full list of Microsoft's Issued Patents [Current as of a week or two ago].
Its hosted at a free patent searching tool, so don't blame me if their servers melt. :)

Microsoft's Patents [patentmonkey.com]

Microsoft = Cartman? (1)

fatty ding dong (1028344) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362341)

Its not FAT, its Big Boned.

Germans indeed first (1)

PermanentMarker (916408) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362867)

at first there where smale germans soon the became fat germans.
It's more a matter of evolution and ingnorence that tey'r still fat.
I can asure this was before MS claims on FAT
We might partition those in two groups MS -Fat and german Fat
Altouhg MS recognized later more races and therefore counted til Fat16, widely used in america too.
But what if one of these rases would mix up with a german?
Gues what Fat32 was born in 1998.

Well it couldnt endup with 32 so then someone had to break this logic and said wtf..! no he didnt he said ntfs!
But we sofar failed to understand, what is mentioned by it, in regards to those poor Fat Germans.
Probaply wtf would have made them angry so they agreed on the term ntfs

Well that's historical correct. :)

Format (1)

RasendeRutje (829555) | more than 7 years ago | (#18362889)

So now I can legally format my harddrive?

Re:Format (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 7 years ago | (#18364075)

Only in Germany.
If you don't live in Germany, you might consider a trip to Germany taking your computer with you in order to legally format your hard drive.
However I'm not sure if you can legally import the newly created FAT file system on your hard disk into your home country. But you can evade that danger by leaving it in Germany.

Way to go Germany! (1)

purpleraison (1042004) | more than 7 years ago | (#18363691)

I am glad that the German (and European) patent system is a little more reasonable than in America. Here, instead of rejecting it, there would be some lobbyist and a senator or two trying to push a bill to make it law, or something crazy like that.

This is not to say Microsoft doesn't deserve the patent on things that they SHOULD have patents on, but let's face it -- the patent system for computer technological advances leaves a lot to be desired.

Maybe someone should patent a logical way of dealing with this :/

Software patents (1)

Scott7477 (785439) | more than 7 years ago | (#18363785)

According to Wikipedia,a patent filer gets 20 years before the patent expires, typically. Clearly there are many companies/organizations that are currently running software that has been in production use for more than 20 years. Couldn't a company using software that has lost patent protection take that software, make a few changes and call it their own new product and then cancel any licensing/maintenance contracts with the vendor?

Not just Gates; probably everyone (1)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 7 years ago | (#18363949)

It wasn't just Gates.

I was working at a Fortune 500 minicomputer company in 1991, and the corporate law office sent around a memo that was posted on every department's bulletin board. It read something like this:

"Many progammers believe that software cannot be patented. The message of this memo is simple. They are wrong:" and then, in 144-point type that could be read from across the room:

"IT CAN BE." ...and then continued with what to do if you thought you had a patentable idea.

Similar things were probably happening in any large company where software was being developed and the lawyers were awake.

Welp...time to... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18364473)

...pull all Windows licenses from those Krauts' systems then start suing them.

It ain't over (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18364697)

'till the FAT lady sings
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