03.30.09

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TomTom Caves; Will Microsoft Start Charging for Mono Next?

Posted in GNU/Linux, GPL, Kernel, Microsoft, Mono, Novell, Patents, TomTom at 12:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Patent protection expires

Summary: Wake up call to Mono fans as TomTom pays Microsoft royalties for FAT

FOR those who have not heard yet, TomTom settled with Microsoft and agreed to pay for a Free software implementation of FAT. What about all those products out there which integrate Mono, a free implementation of Microsoft’s crown jewel and Java wannabe, .NET? Microsoft would insist that it took $3 billion in R&D.

We’ll write more about the subject later this week, but as Reuters puts it, “Under the terms of a five-year agreement, Microsoft said TomTom will pay Microsoft for use of the eight car navigation and file management system patents in the case Microsoft brought against TomTom, while Microsoft will be able to use the four patents included in the TomTom countersuit without any payment to TomTom.”

Does a “five-year agreement” sound familiar?

“Those Microsoft technologies just don’t belong in GNU/Linux; they belong in Ballnux.”According to other sources, “TomTom will remove from its products the functionality related to two file management system patents (the “FAT LFN patents”), which enables efficient naming, organizing, storing and accessing of file data, Microsoft said. TomTom will remove this functionality within two years, and the agreement provides for coverage directly to TomTom’s end customers under these patents during that time.” Groklaw says that ‘TomTom & Microsoft Settle “in a way that ensures TomTom’s full compliance with its obligations under the GPLv2″.’

Microsoft probably wins for Linux FUD in this case, so the question about who caved is irrelevant and OIN proved somewhat unhelpful.

All those Microsoft apologists who insist that the company does not use its patent offensively can hush up and Mono enthusiasts who pretend that it’s all right to just mimic Everything™ Microsoft™ can take their output and shove it in a sled (or SLED) where it belongs. Those Microsoft technologies just don’t belong in GNU/Linux; they belong in Ballnux. Speaking of which, here is a new article from Sam Varghese, who explains why SLED is a pointless product. It is — just as Novell aspired for it to be — a “cheap Windows”. Not cheap as in price; cheap as in poor.

SUSE 11 vs Windows 7: no contest

[...]

If one had to choose between an Exchange clone and Exchange itself, which one would you pick?

If there was a choice between a word processor that had Office compatibility and the real thing, why would you opt for a pretender?

If one needed to use Silverlight, then why opt for the clone that is always lagging behind in terms of full compliance?

Those who want to defeat Microsoft should stop copycatting Windows and signing patent deals. The first step may be to shun Novell projects like Mono and Moonlight and also alienate this company’s voice as far as Free software is concerned.

GNU/Linux should capitalise on its merits, not on temporary ‘protection’ from Microsoft and a permission to copy some features provided the user is paying royalties for patents that are neither legal in the large majority of the world nor even disclosed.

“If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today.”

Bill Gates (when Microsoft was smaller)

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17 Comments

  1. Eric Blair said,

    March 30, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Gravatar

    What would happen if OIN stepped up to the bat and sued MS for falsely claiming patent rights to parts of the Linux kernel. This has set a most dangerous president. Or at least one we know about. How many other companies are paying the Microsoft GPL tax.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    From 2007:

    Microsoft currently collects royalties from some companies that use Linux in their computing environments, Gutierrez said. However, he declined to indicate the number, the dollar amount Microsoft receives from those payments, or identify any of the companies by name.

    Also see: Can Germany Fine Microsoft for Slandering GNU/Linux?

  2. Jose_X said,

    March 30, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Gravatar

    >> and OIN proved somewhat unhelpful.

    Comment here http://www.computerworlduk.com/toolbox/open-source/blogs/index.cfm?entryid=2044&blogid=14 suggests something else:

    “Did the OIN encourage this settlement? The OIN is backed by many supporters of the patent system. From that perspective, a “reasonable” settlement would be a goal. Such a “reasonable” settlement might dictate that the player with more patents come out ahead. Under this view, OIN would only get involved in the suit if one side became completely unreasonable, in their view.”

  3. Jose_X said,

    March 30, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Gravatar

    Here is a different set of possibilities (also from the Glyn article):

    *****
    Another possibility would be for OIN to recommend that TomTom cede to Microsoft as the “proper” thing to do, but then change away from FAT.

    ..or maybe there is a larger push going on here to show FAT is an unwise format. OIN could be helping Linux build industry goodwill: Linux patents protect you when you use it, rather than penalize you when you use it.

    ..maybe it’s intended that this result will help push the kernel into a GPLv3. Linus and many others mostly accept the GPLv3, but a change would require a stimulant/catalyst.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Yes, exactly my thought. He was a little alarming at the start, but I can assure you that I still see as many devices as ever entering the market with Linux. Jay Lyman agreed.

    Microsoft’s actions are a sign of misery. It turns hostile, it becomes a parasite.

  4. aeshna23 said,

    March 30, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    Gravatar

    “Does a “five-year agreement” sound familiar?”

    Couldn’t the five-years simply reflect that the FAT patents are about 15 years old and will expire in about five years?

  5. Victor Soliz said,

    March 31, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Gravatar

    Really, lest forget mono for a second. EVERYBODY lost with this settlement. Now freaking FAT implementations needs licensing? And what about “ensures GPLv2 compliance”? So, FAT licensees will be unable to move on to GPLv3, that’s great. It’s too bad the first FAT patents case was this, and I guess MS will avoid fighting directly with these patents and just use TomTom’s fine example to push for more deals, yes, that’s right more damn deals. I can imagine it will derive in devices having to license FAT and wmv playback will come as a “bonus” license, this is so damn lame.

    To think we’ve been focusing on Mono all this time. MS has just shown they can use anything to screw us all. All they need is the broken software patents system and a lazy company to target with suits. Fighting against software patents should become a priority.

  6. Dave said,

    March 31, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Gravatar

    “What would happen if OIN stepped up to the bat and sued MS for falsely claiming patent rights to parts of the Linux kernel”

    I would like to see that, but what would happen would probably be the end of FOSS and Linux as we know it, but it would be fun to watch.

    You would want to be really really sure FOSS/OIN/Linux did not contain **AND** MS patents and be willing to pay the costs involved in losing that case.

    What would happen if Linux and FOSS lost in just one part of that, say FAT, and it was retroactive, meaning that FOSS would have to pay damages MS has suffered from the time FOSS started using MS patents in the kernel.

    Or companies like TomTom turn around and sue Linux/FOSS for providing code that is encumbered by MS patents.

    How would the SAMBA people go if they could not communicate with MS OS”s using FAT or NTFS or whatever that belongs to MS. They would be sunk.

    FOSS use FAT to enable Linux to interoperate with Windows, they do it to “ride the coat tails” of a successful company with disregard to the law.

    When the excriment hits the rotating air moving device, and it gets down to business FOSS/OIN/Linux folds.

    We were all bussily “Thinking Bilski” and “prior art” but when it comes down to it, TomTom (and by proxy LINUX) was caught out stealing patents and trying to ride the success of MS for their own purposes. WHY ELSE

    pcolon Reply:

    Samba does not use FAT or NTFS. It does not contain MS patents, it was not reverse-enginnered. It was done through network analysis. It was produced to communicate (be interoperable) with windows devices (SMB), else it’s not needed.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    It seems like “Dave” is our familiar troll “darryl”, who nymshifted to “Dave” some time ago after LinuxToday had banned him for trolling.

    Jose_X Reply:

    >> [Samba] does not contain MS patents

    Well, any part of any protocol that is captured in a patent would be violated by anyone using that protocol.

    http://boycottnovell.com/2009/03/31/monodevelop-poison-factory/comment-page-1/#comment-61315

    I looked at a network Microsoft patent (late 80s or early 90s), on an efficiency implementation related to cifs(?) products, that someone posted on BN a while ago. I doubt that particular patent was over any part of the protocol. It seemed like it was about a way to implement the protocol; hence, it could be bypassed.

    You can’t, however, both (a) implement a protocol and (b) bypass a patent where the patent’s claim properties are incorporated into the protocol because implementing the protocol would imply you have an implementation/product with the properties that were patented.

    There are so many patents to check.

    [Except possibly in hypothetical or very rare cases,] I don’t believe software patents “promote the progress of the sciences and useful arts” as the US Constitution mandates must be true for any such government monopoly grant.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    We should lobby IBM to do to software patents what it did to Bernard Bilski’s BM patent.

    Jose_X Reply:

    Dave, Microsoft would violate enough patents and the damage they have caused is much greater because they have a lot more of the market for a lot more years.

  7. saulgoode said,

    March 31, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Gravatar

    You would want to be really really sure FOSS/OIN/Linux did not contain **AND** MS patents and be willing to pay the costs involved in losing that case.

    Actually, now that Microsoft is on record as litigating their FAT patent, any person, company, or organization using Linux in the United States would be justified in seeking a declaratory judgment on the validity of the patent. Doing this in and of itself risks little as there is no monetary awards in a declaratory judgment hearing. The “cost” of losing a declaratory judgment would be the same as if the patent claim were otherwise assumed valid and the technology avoided.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    @saulgoode,

    Correct. It’s far from over and I’m accumulating references to show this. In the mean time, have a look at the SFLC Web site. :-)

  8. Victor Soliz said,

    April 1, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Gravatar

    Bruce Perens on all of this IMO “Microsoft and TomTom settle, everybody loses” would be a good headline for this:

    http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/osrc/article.php/12068_3812891_1/Bruce-Perens-Microsoft-and-TomTom-Settle-Justice-and-Linux-Lose.htm

    You read it and wish it was an April Fools joke.

    IMHO all US companies depending on Linux should join and challenge the patents’ validity, it is certainly true there’s nothing innovative in FAT unlike what “Dave” would like to think. It is also all necessary. Requiring MS licensing for this will screw everyone, picture users ranting about how their USB drives won’t work in ubuntu. Migrating to another FS is a great idea, however it is freaking hard, I can already see MS not supporting the new FS by default, making users hate the new devices and stick to their patent-encumbered FAT-formatted drives. An ipod would for sure not even work anymore if you formatted it with a FOSS filesystem.

    Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    There is no “Dave”. It’s a Microsoft AstroTurfer called “darryl”. LinuxToday banned him.

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