Microsoft Finally Reveals Some Of The Patents It Claims Linux Infringes… Sorta
from the here-we-go dept
For years, Microsoft has waved around the FUD stick concerning the 200+ patents it claimed to hold that Linux implementations supposedly infringed upon. However, when confronted, the company never seemed willing to name a single such patent. However, it looks like the company is starting to swing that stick with a bit more force. Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s “patent guy,” fresh off a promotion, is suing navigation device maker TomTom over a variety of patents, including a few that relate to TomTom’s implementation of Linux. Gutierrez has a somewhat troubling view on patents, where he believes that all tech companies should effectively be paying pretty much everyone else patent licensing fees before they can build any products. Rather than seeing that as a problem — he thinks it represents a good thing. It’s difficult to see what the benefit is in all that wasted money changing hands… other than it’s probably what pays his salary. Not surprisingly, Microsoft is using the infamous ITC loophole to get two shots at forcing TomTom to pay up — meaning that it’s both sued the company in court, and gone to the ITC to have it try to block the import of TomTom products.
As for the patents themselves, looking them over, it’s almost scary how broad they are. Some of them apply to basic in-car navigation features, while others focus on the file system TomTom is using (which is an implementation of Linux). If you’d like to look them over, here they are:
- Vehicle computer system with open platform architecture
- Method and system for generating driving directions (check out the claims on this one…)
- Methods and Arrangements for Interacting with Controllable Objects within a Graphical User Interface Environment Using Various Input Mechanisms
- Portable computing device-integrated appliance
- Vehicle computer system with wireless internet connectivity (would be great if some IP lawyers could explain how this one passes the KSR test for combining existing products)
- Common name space for long and short filenames (ditto concerning whether or not this passes the Bilski test concerning pure “software” patents)
- Common name space for long and short filenames (same name, slightly different patent — same questions raised, however)
- Method and System for File System Management Using a Flash-Erasable, Programmable, Read-only Memory
It’s those last three that apply to TomTom’s implementation of Linux. While Gutierrez insists this is not Microsoft beginning its patent assault on Linux, anyone wondering about those mythical 200+ patents might want to start checking on those three patents first. Unfortunately, chances are that TomTom will just settle. No matter how strong a case it might have, it’s going to be cheaper to settle, and that’s exactly what Microsoft is counting on.