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05.05.09

OIN Explains TomTom’s Settlement with Microsoft (and Other Patent News)

Posted in America, Europe, GNU/Linux, IBM, Kernel, Microsoft, OIN, Patents, TomTom at 4:24 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Gavel in silk

Summary: TomTom may reveal the details of its FAT settlement, Topolanek escapes the room, and an IBMer might become the next PTO Director

IAM Magazine, a site by lawyers for lawyers (i.e. patent maximalism), has just published an interesting entry (free subscription to read) whose heading heralds: “Microsoft invites TomTom to reveal settlement terms after OIN chief’s claims”

Speaking in a session based on the EPO’s Scenarios for the Future project, Bergelt explained that under Dutch law, a company only has to reveal how much it has paid to settle a dispute if the amount exceeds a certain percentage of its market capitalisation. According to Bergelt, in TomTom’s case the sum would have had to have been over $500,000. As TomTom has not made any figures public, Bergelt claimed, the settlement amount must have fallen below the threshold.

This pretty much answers the question about the amount TomTom was required to pay. It was already discussed in [1, 2]. Digital Majority found this interesting part of a thread about FAT in Linux (TomTom effect): “Steve, can you please stop the bullsh**ting? From the complete lack of technical arguments it’s pretty obvious that this seems to be some FUD fallout from the MS vs TomTom patent lawsuit.

The Linux FUD blog, which debunks Linux FUD on a routinely basis, has just written about Microsoft’s strategy with patents and lawsuits against Linux. Here is just a portion:

Microsoft vs. Linux

Microsoft has claimed that Linux violates approximately 235 patents. The company has reportedly “chosen” to not sue, and the rationale for this choice has been the topic of much speculation. Microsoft has not revealed the details of the violations, including the identifying numbers of the violated patents.

Lack of merit in the claim is probably the reason most people believe Microsoft has not filed – in other words, Microsoft is bluffing. Perhaps Microsoft knows that the patents are not enforcible for one reason or another, but it also knows fully that it retains power derived from fear so long as it can make threats that sound credible. If the claim does lack merit, that power would diminish rapidly once a case is brought against the first defendant. Either the patents would be found to be unenforcible (e.g. prior art would be proven), or legal action against one defendant would prompt the Linux community as a whole to adapt quickly. Details of the suit would provide the vital information required to ensure that Linux complies with all patents going forward.

Many Linux supporters and advocates disapproved when Novell and XandrOS succumbed to this fear when they signed their now famous “peace treaties” with Microsoft.

There is another interesting entry in IAM Magazine. Some time ago we wrote about the Microsoft-sponsored presidency from the Czech Republic and its role in lobbying for software patents in Europe [1, 2]. It is doing a lot of damage and now we find this hilarious report:

Patent change in Europe is unlikely if business leaders remain silent

[...]

With all that that in mind, Topolanek claimed that he was confident that the Czech Presidency of the EU had enabled progress which could now be built on by the Swedes, who assume the presidency at the end of June. It all sounded very impressive, I have to say – a national leader talking eloquently about the importance of patents to Europe’s future. Who’d have thought it? Then he was asked to explain what the Czechs had done in concrete terms to take things forward. He paused for a very brief moment before saying: “I do not know, this is not my area.” He then got up and left.

Priceless.

So on behalf of large multinationals, those politicians seem to be promoting more fences and barriers to competition. Then they are surprised that no support is received from local businesses, except the fake ones (AstroTurfers for monopolies).

Other patent news this week:

It turns out that the next PTO Director might sadly enough be coming from a company which is in favour of software patents (IBM).

Much of the job of PTO director involves employee relations, and Kappos continues to successfully lead one of the largest private patent departments in the world. His current and former employees are loyal to him as a leader and praise his creativity and genius. The IBM IP office is known for its spirited and open debates on policy and direction. In my view, this corporate management experience and patent prosecution experience are more relevant to running the PTO than – say – running litigation teams at a law firm, managing a congressional committee, or even teaching a group of law students.

The FSF is already taking its fight against software patents up a notch:

End Software Patents today launched en.swpat.org, a wiki to document the case against software patents. Over 100 articles have already been started to give an idea of the scope and structure of the wiki.

Any contributions to that Wiki would of course be valuable.

“Small enterprises generally adopt a rather negative position towards the current increasing granting of patents for software and algorithms because they fear that these will hamper or eventually even impede their work (more than 85%).” —German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Study of the Innovation Performance of German Software Companies, 2006, p. 86

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