Bad News: Microsoft Gets its Way with TomTom

Well, the question as to how the great Microsoft vs. TomTom suit would finish has been answered:

Microsoft and TomTom announced on Monday that they have reached a settlement in their respective patent suits.

As part of the deal, TomTom will pay Microsoft for coverage for the software maker's mapping-related patents as well as the file management patents that Microsoft claimed were infringed by TomTom's use of the Linux kernel. Microsoft will also get access to the TomTom patents that were cited in TomTom's countersuit against Microsoft, although Microsoft won't be making any payment to TomTom.

In other words, Microsoft gets to say that TomTom acknowledges Microsoft's file management patents – the ones that touch Linux. This means that Microsoft can now go around to other embedded systems manufacturers and say: “Well, TomTom settled, so they obviously thought the patents were good – wouldn't it be wise to pay up too?”

This is really starting to play out just as I feared in the beginning. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft proceeds now: whether it openly threatens others using Linux, or does everything discreetly. I predict the latter, but the effect on Linux in this market will still be chilling.

The only curious part of this new agreement is the following:

In a statement, the two companies said that the settlement provides TomTom patent coverage "in a manner that is fully compliant with TomTom's obligations under the General Public Lucense Version 2."

IANAL, so I couldn't comment; but I'll be very interested to see what those with more expertise in this area than me come up with.


Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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