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Bruce Perens: Microsoft and TomTom Settle, Justice and Linux Lose

Mar 31, 2009, 17:33 (4 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Perens)

"Since I last wrote on this topic, TomTom brought a counter-suit against Microsoft, attempting to get the software giant to license four mapping patents that TomTom claims MS infringed. Tomtom apparently had previously been attempting to convince Microsoft to license. So, it's hard for me to find sympathy for either player in these lawsuits, but there's lots of sympathy to hand out to the software industry, justice, and Linux – all losers in this deal.

"Justice lost because there's been no trial to overturn the FAT filesystem patents. As venture capitalist Larry Augustin wrote: "Those of us who have PhDs in computer disciplines and have studied operating systems and file systems, don't see anything particularly innovative in FAT or its extension to support longer file names, FAT32.

"Indeed, the FAT patents have been invalidated for being non-innovative in Germany, and only survived invalidation in the U.S. through a patent office appeal in which opponents were not allowed to participate. It would take a trial in court to finally settle the issue, a trial that Microsoft would likely have lost.

"But justice is too expensive. A trial to invalidate the eight patents Microsoft brought against TomTom, none of them poster-boys for innovation, would have cost more than TomTom had to spend, perhaps in excess of $10 million dollars. Obviously Microsoft offered TomTom an out for much less than that, but all we've been told is that TomTom paid Microsoft, and Microsoft didn't have to pay Tomtom. How much?"

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