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.