TomTom Realizes Microsoft's Pointy Patent Stick Is Too Sharp… Settles Patent Dispute

from the cheaper-to-settle-than-fight dept

Well, it looks like the ongoing patent battle between TomTom and Microsoft has come to a quick end, with TomTom caving. The company is paying Microsoft to “license” its patents, while dropping its own patent lawsuits against Microsoft. This really isn’t too surprising. Microsoft’s obviously got plenty of money to spend on just such a legal battle (exactly what the company counts on to get companies to pay up), so at some point, the calculation on TomTom’s part has to be whether it’s cheaper to fight or to just pay up. In this case (like so many), the company obviously felt it was cheaper to pay up, rather than fight what it believed were highly questionable patents. That’s too bad — but shows just why the patent system is so widely abused. It’s almost always cheaper to simply pay up rather than fight — which is exactly the sort of situation that Microsoft counts on, as it hypes up it’s “successful patent licensing program,” failing to concede that most of that licensing is done at the end of a large and very pointy stick.

What’s still unclear, however, is how this settlement deals with the questions that were raised over GPL’d software used by TomTom. As we noted, the GPL license that covers components of TomTom’s software forbid it from putting any restrictions on the distribution of the software. A deal with Microsoft could violate the GPL and cause trouble for TomTom down the road. Perhaps the company is betting that any legal battle on that front would be cheaper than fighting Microsoft’s patent lawyers in court.

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Companies: microsoft, tomtom

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Comments on “TomTom Realizes Microsoft's Pointy Patent Stick Is Too Sharp… Settles Patent Dispute”

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Anonymous Coward says:

3 years of discussion leads me to think theres more to this.

I’ve watched Microsoft litigation for years and noticed a trend with odd, foundational-technology lawsuits like FAT32.

Perhaps TomTom had some technology Microsoft wanted, but wouldn’t license, pushing Microsoft to file a FAT32 licensing suit against TomTom. We’ll probably learn more as Microsoft launches some GPS thingy in the next few months, whose main, whizbang feature is something TomTom had in 2003. Maybe downlowadable maps or something else real dumb.

Paint42 says:

Re: 3 years of discussion leads me to think theres more to this.

Yeah, wouldn’t surprise me. Probably some key feature that Ballmer will introduce alongside Ford, with the veracity of a rabid dog: foamed mouth and all sweaty pits.

Last week, he sent a little predictive programming article out where he mentioned his dad worked for Ford, and was going to sell his land rover now that the brand is no longer owned by Ford…

So yeah some crappy feature TomTom had for years will probably be a standard feature on Ford Cars.

Reverend Steve to offer free exorcisms to Ford Own says:

Re: Re: 3 years of discussion leads me to think theres more to this.

MS is a company of stroked egos, not good software, otherwise they would make good software without the ego.

Yup… Must be near “GO-time” for some crappy product launch. Whatever it is, remember to wait for SP 2 or 3.

mike42 (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Correction: Microsoft was never a fan of interoperability WITH OTHER VENDORS. They made their own apps interoperable, which was their selling point.

The sad part is, other vendors wouldn’t even make their own apps interoperable. You had to get a 3rd party tool to get information from one app to another.

Lockin, yes, but forced upgrade? Come on. Forced upgrade is when a company turns off an app after a certain calendar date, like Apple did with QuickTime. (Yes, it happened to me!) I have yet to see Microsoft do such a stupid thing. Not saying they didn’t, I just haven’t seen it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

1) Interoperability
My mistake – I thought interoperability meant that different systems could operate together, regardless of who built and sold it.

2) Forced Upgrade
Again, my mistake – I thought lack of backward compatibility implied a forced upgrade. But then you really do not need those old docs. Hint, have you ever opened/saved an older doc in a newer version of office and then tried to open said doc in the old office? They do not turn off old stuff, they just no longer support it.

Anonymous Coward says:

What’s still unclear, however, is how this settlement deals with the questions that were raised over GPL’d software used by TomTom.

According to the Ars Technica article on the subject, TomTom is maintaining GPL compliance by removing the code covered by MicroSoft’s patents.

So while they may have nominally “licensed” the patents, in reality they just paid to make the lawsuit go away.


Anonymous Coward says:

Still a GPL Violation

From the Ars Technica article:
TomTom intends to make the requisite changes to the FAT code within the next two years. The company’s agreement with Microsoft provides a guarantee that it will not sue TomTom users in the interim.

An agreement not to sue for 2 years won’t satisfy the GPL. While MS and AT may claim that such an agreement is GPL compliant, I doubt that the FSF would agree. I bet the agreement TT has with MS also calls for MS to defend TT if the FSF sues. Basically, TT is now thumbing its nose at the FSF and the GPL with MS standing behind them daring the FSF to make something of it. Now lets see if the FSF has the balls to do it.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Since Weird Harold is such an Expert on FAT32...

I have yet to see any evidence that Weird Harold knows anything about computer programming. Quite apart from the implications of Bilski, the Microsoft FAT patents seems likely to fail the KSR v. Teleflex test– resulting from a case which occurred after the Patent Office last ruled on Microsoft’s FAT32 patents.

Some examination questions for Weird Harold:

1. Will Weird Harold please discuss the use of the continuation card in FORTRAN II and FORTRAN IV, using punched card program input. (ref: Paul Cress, Paul Dirkson, and J. Wesley Graham, FORTRAN with WATFOR and WATFIV, 1968, 1970).

2. Likewise, will he please discuss the system of termination codes overlapped with index numbers for automatic array bounds used in the IBM 370’s PL/I compilers, circa 1980, and the notion of spanning records, discussed in the Programmers’s Guide and Execution Logic Manuals for the PL/I Optimizing Compiler.

[It’s amazing! I typed the stock numbers from my old IBM 370 manuals into Google, and voila!, they are now freely available on the internet.]

I would say that both references obviously bear on the way in which long records are incorporated into the FAT32 directory database. Perhaps Weird Harold could explain why not?

3. With respect to the system of generation of short file names in FAT32, will Weird Harold please explain why the removal of illegal characters is unobvious, and why the system of assigning successive numbers to names within a category is unobvious?

Fred Realist says:

Mama always said the longer the title, the bigger the bullshit artist

When people realize that it’s not useful to make a sign on Microsoft’s road, will they realize that they’ve overvalued the roads that was created.

So TomTom created a sign on Microsoft’s Road, and was sued. In the process, when slapped, TomTom offered the other cheek.

Hopefully “Corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing” can fix it.

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