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.

Filed Under: fud, patents, pointy stick, settling
Companies: microsoft, tomtom


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  1. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 30 Mar 2009 @ 7:25pm

    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.

    http://www.bitsavers.org/pdf/ibm/370/pli/
    http://www.bitsavers.org/

    [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?

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