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SearchEnterpriseLinux: Patent review a feather in Linux, open source cap

Jul 29, 2004, 17:20 (2 Talkback[s])

The United States Patent and Trademark Office last month agreed to review a patent on Microsoft's File Allocation Tables (FAT) technology. The Public Patent Foundation (PubPat) petitioned the USPTO to look at the patent, claiming it was not a novel invention; it had appeared in another commercial product prior to Microsoft's patent. FAT is used by numerous operating systems, including Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD and others, to exchange media between removable storage devices like floppy disks and flash memory cards in digital cameras and computers.

Microsoft will not license FAT for use in free software, and many in the Linux community fear Microsoft could someday begin asking for royalties from commercial open source and Linux users. In this interview, attorney and SearchEnterpriseLinux.com expert adviser Scott Nathan answers questions about FAT and how patents and copyrights may impact the open source development process.

Is it a good thing for Linux that this patent is being reviewed?

Scott Nathan: It's unusual. It could draw some focus to the fact that the USPTO is going to invest itself in the validity of claims. It's hard since we don't know why they decided to do it. It could certainly draw some hope from the fact that they are doing it.

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