Microsoft "recalculating route" of Linux patents

In Thursday's IT Blogwatch, Richi Jennings watches Microsoft sue TomTom over its Linux patent "infringement" -- is this the beginning of the end? Not to mention a Mac Mini inside a Disk ][ Drive...

Agam Shah reports:

TomTom logo
Microsoft on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against TomTom, alleging that the GPS vendor's in-car navigation devices infringe on its patents. Microsoft is alleging that TomTom is infringing eight patents.

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TomTom's portable navigation devices run a version of the Linux OS to provide driving directions and other functions. Microsoft said that five of the patents focus on improving in-car navigation technology, including the ability to run multiple applications, virtual on-screen tools and wireless Internet connectivity. The remaining three patents relate to file management, enabling "efficient naming, organizing, storing and accessing of file data."
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Todd Bishop adds:

It's believed to be the first time Microsoft has filed a patent suit over Linux, after claiming for years that elements of the open-source operating system violate its patents. However, Microsoft says open-source software is not the intended focal point of the action. Five of the alleged patent violations relate to proprietary software.

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Microsoft has said previously that Linux and other open-source programs violate more than 200 of its patents -- elevating the tension that has long existed between Microsoft and the open-source community.
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Gavin Clarke muses:

Microsoft said it's turned to the courts having attempted to "engage in licensing discussions" with TomTom for "more than a year." In a clear sign of how much flak Microsoft knows it's in for, Microsoft carefully steered clear of any mention of Linux in its press announcement of the action.

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For those in the open-source community long skeptical of Microsoft's increasing out reach, TomTom is their "told you so" moment ... The case will erase hard-won gains Microsoft’s made in the open-source community ... [It] will potentially hurt and slow further optimization and interoperability between Windows and Linux.
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Time to unleash Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols:

Once a year, Microsoft president Steve Ballmer, would proclaim that Linux violated some of Microsoft patents. Then, he wouldn't do anything about it. Now, perhaps, he has ... Microsoft infamously funneled money to SCO to fuel its lawsuits against IBM and other Linux-using companies. With SCO's complete failure to even prove that it had any rights to Unix, never mind Linux, there was no longer any even half-credible legal actions against Linux.

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Is Microsoft actually starting a legal attack against Linux? Is this just a routine IP licensing dispute that happens to touch on Linux? At this point, we don't know. Even Eben Moglen, co-author of the GPLv3, open-source's core license, tells me he's not sure what the lawsuit means yet.
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Eric Krangel uses a colorful metaphor:

Microsoft has gone and done it ... We're expecting fireworks before this one is done: It pits the unstoppable force of Linux advocacy versus the immovable object of Microsoft tenacity.
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Artraze spits bile:

As Windows does not come bundled with support for any file system that isn't patented by Microsoft, lording those patents over people is quite anticompetitive. Or, at the very least, more-so than the whole IE thing which started all this monopoly stuff to begin with.

Then again, the entire point of software patents is to make monopolies, so perhaps this is just what's supposed to be happening.
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Miamicanes is the voice of reason:

I'll be shocked if Microsoft ever launches into an all-out assault on Linux. Frankly, Microsoft BENEFITS from having a small & noisy group of people loudly insisting there are alternatives to Windows. It lets them point and say, "See, we aren't REALLY a monopoly!
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morganew tells the other side of the story:

TomTom were found to be a gpl violator in '04, sued Garmin in '07 and Toyota in '08 for infringing TomTom patents.

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And finally...

Previously in IT Blogwatch:

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Other Computerworld bloggers:

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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/adviser/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 23 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him on Twitter, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use boring old email: blogwatch@richi.co.uk.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

 
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