And Here Comes The Patent Nuclear War: TomTom Sues Microsoft Back For Infringement

from the mutually-assured-destruction dept

For years, people in the software industry have noticed that patents have become the nuclear stockpiling of the tech industry. Lots of companies feel the need to stock up on as many patents as possible, not for any good reason -- but to have something to scare people off from suing, knowing that they'll get sued right back. This is especially true today, since almost no tech product can be seen as not violating a whole bevy of patents from others. But, of course, when you're dealing with a nuclear stockpiling for deterrence purposes, eventually, nuclear war breaks out. That seems to be happening with the patent lawsuit between Microsoft and TomTom. While there's been speculation that TomTom really can't settle, apparently it can launch the nuclear war. It's now countersued Microsoft, claiming that the company violates a bunch of its patents. And, once again, the only folks who win are the patent attorneys.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    RD, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 4:58pm

    Yes!

    2 sides suing each other into oblivion where only the lawyers win. JUST like the founding fathers intended when they created the patent system! This is EXACTLY what Jefferson wanted!

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    What Me Worry?, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 5:03pm

    MAD

    Cant say that I would miss either one of them.

    The courts created this monster, who is going to kill it?

    I say nuke em from orbit, its the only way to be sure.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Weird Harold, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 5:49pm

    I look to my left, I see Microsoft and a truly amazingly huge pile of money.

    I look to my right, and I see GPS company relatively fresh out of the gate.

    In a knock down drag'em out, I know who will have money left at the end. I have a feeling that Tom-Tom may have signed their own corporate death warrant at this point.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    some old guy, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 6:14pm

    Re:

    I have a feeling that Tom-Tom may have signed their own corporate death warrant at this point.

    Nono, that was Microsoft who signed their death warrant. If they have to die, they are making it on their terms and will die a martyr.

    Good on 'em.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 7:40pm

    Re: WH

    Harold,

    You assume that any pro bono work is subpar ?
    Nice

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Dan, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 7:40pm

    Tom Tom could switch to ext3 fs and continue to sue M$. It would the right thing to do.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Weird Harold, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:13pm

    Re: Re: WH

    I am not suggesting pro bono is good or bad (wasn't even my intention).

    Even if the laywers are entirely free, the amount of research, time, and effort put into defending a lawsuit can run a company in the ground. I just think that Microsoft has pretty much the biggest pile of cash lying around (except maybe google at this point) and they can wait it out as long as they want.

    As for Tomtom changing their software, they could do it - but they would have to recall millions of units to undo what is done. That would cost time and money.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    teknosapien, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:23pm

    Innovation crushed to death

    I don't know. TomTom was a real innovator with consumer level GPS units. I tried several when they were in their infancy and they by far were the best tech at the time. That being said they, I for one would like them not to fail. Where were these allegations when TomTom started up? it was only after they were making money and a real market owner that any other concern even tried to go after them for money/market share

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    FAT SUKS, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 8:50pm

    Re: Innovation crushed to death

    "TomTom was a real innovator with consumer level GPS units."

    Well, they shouldn't have stolen the cutting edge storage system developed at great expense by Microsoft. Now they must pay the price for their arrogance, thinking that they could use something like FAT32 - how dare them !!!!1111

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Matt, Mar 20th, 2009 @ 9:38pm

    hmm

    IIRC I read saying that Tomtom had tried to settle with MS (as in what they're claiming in the countersuit) a year before MS suddenly threatened them - so Tomtom will have a clear case of willful infringement.

    Meanwhile, MS is using the ITC loophole on this. We'll see what happens.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Free iPhone, Mar 21st, 2009 @ 12:38am

    Bill Gate's advice to UK wannabes

    I thought of this article when reading your post - http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/30/gates_iod_crm_4/. Apparently if you want to succeed you just got to make sure you don't get sued.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2009 @ 7:14am

    Re:

    How many Tomtom users even know their memory cards have a filesystem, though? Changing technology is easy; teaching users to work around it because microsoft has a patent on it is a rather different matter.

    I'm rather more interested in whether those other patent licensing agreements Microsoft has made with respect to GPLed software are legal since they force a breach of the GPL.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Pat Ente, Mar 21st, 2009 @ 8:07am

    software patents are bogus

    Another reason why software patents are bogus.
    How can there be any interchangeability when there is a toll to pay? Consumers do not want to be locked into a one company solution, and in fact would spend more if they had multiple choices. Where is the incentive for a comapny to provide a product which is compatible with other products from a variety of sources? In fact there are rather large disincentives. How, exactly does this promote anything but stupidity and lawyers?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, Mar 21st, 2009 @ 12:04pm

    Patents as a nuclear option

    I agree. As a patent attorney, and well aware of what the IP laws could do for us in a positive sense if we went back to what the founders intended (which I follow in my practice), I am saddened by the present state of affairs.
    However, two things have to happen to fix it:
    1. Campaign finance reform, and
    2. Funding the patent system rather than having them pay for their operations out of fees.

    Meanwhile, I am doing what I can to return us to the original purpose of the system, as shown in the US Constitution!

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    csin, Mar 21st, 2009 @ 9:50pm

    Hmm...

    Wow, the patent system was in the US Constitution? I never knew that... :p

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    TheStupidOne, Mar 22nd, 2009 @ 9:37am

    Re:

    Well since they can't settle without violating their software license then their only 2 options are to close or to fight M$

    So since their death knell has already been sounded they might as well start by laying off all nonessential personnel and gathering support from all the M$ haters around. Then use all that money to just fight until one of them (probably tomtom) is dead.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re: TheStupidOne

    A testament to how patents are good.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    moelarry, Mar 23rd, 2009 @ 6:22am

    history

    "This is especially true today, since almost no tech product can be seen as not violating a whole bevy of patents from others."

    Not true. Only about 5 percent of patents are ever litigated. The rest cover things that are either never used, or the inventor doesn't have the money to enforce. Further, most patents are rather narrow in scope so if an infringer wishes they can remove that feature from their product and not have to pay. Otherwise, if one has a patent covering one or more crucial feature and the other firm has patents covering other features they simply cross license. That's how Bell did it with Western Union over 100 years ago. Better leave these topics to those who know something about them, or you’ll look like an idiot.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    moelarry, Mar 24th, 2009 @ 7:18am

    Re: history

    make that only 1.7% are litigated

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Mike that understands IP, Mar 25th, 2009 @ 4:38pm

    Shorter Masnick: "I failed out of law school. I can never be a patent attorney so I'll just complain endlessly about things I can neither influence nor explain with any sort of real clarity."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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