Bonum Certa Men Certa

A Deeper Look at TomTom's Patent Case Against Microsoft

1147987_old_maritime_map Can Microsoft navigate its way out of this one?



Summary: A detailed overview and some analysis of TomTom's countersuit

LAST month we wrote about Microsoft's case against TomTom and a few days ago we put forth some quick initial coverage of the counter action from TomTom. The whole situation is reason for realisation that Microsoft bullies "open source". The following excellent analysis from Andy Updegrove says that this aggressive strategy will break Microsoft apart from the inside. He also writes:



The reason the licensing question matters is the message that it sends: Microsoft has for years been approaching vendors alleging that it owns 235 patents that it claims are infringed by popular open source software, and that several dozen of these patents are infringed by any software distribution based upon the Linux kernel. These discussions are always behind the scenes, but when Microsoft succeeds in reaching agreement with a significant vendor, and especially a Linux vendor (like Novell), Microsoft makes an announcement, and puts another notch in its gun. The next time it visits a vendor - or even an end user - that list gets to be longer, and the person receiving the next visit is tempted to think that there must be a basis for all those other companies signing on the dotted line. So, it would appear, the smart thing would be to get in line as well.


It all started with Novell, which came to Microsoft to sign the patent deal. In fact, watch this OpenSUSE talk from FOSDEM [Ogg]. It's all about patents, so a preliminary assessment leaves a bad taste.

But anyway, that's where we are today and Microsoft's patent aggression against Linux began just a couple of weeks after the Novell deal when Steve Ballmer made some rude remarks. To repeat them from the source:

In mid-November, shortly after the pact was announced, Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer said companies that sell or run Linux, but aren't covered under the Novell deal, are illegally using Microsoft's IP. "We believe every Linux customer basically has an undisclosed balance-sheet liability," he said.

He said in a later meeting: "I do think it clearly establishes that open source is not free."


Going back to the TomTom case, there are many new Slashdot comments and also LinuxToday comments. Carla Schroder, the editor of LinuxToday, cautiously called TomTom's response a "dual GPL dodge" when she wrote:

So, is this turning into a joint venture GPL dodge? Jeremy Allison says that

"It isn't a case of cross-license and everything is ok. If Tom Tom or any other company cross licenses patents then by section 7 of GPLv2 (for the Linux kernel) they lose the rights to redistribute the kernel *at all*."

So rather than tiny TomTom heroically standing up to the big mean Borg, it looks more like business as usual.


One reader, Frank Earl, responded to Carla by making a correction and rightly adding that TomTom ought to have gone for the jugular (or roots) of software patenting.

This depends on whether or not TomTom settles that way. These things often do NOT end up being cross-licensing deals once they get into the courtroom pissing match we see here. It's only a problem if they cross-license. :-D

My regret is that they led with more patents instead of running the Bilski decision up the flagpole first. With Bilski, MS' stuff is abjectly invalid and wouldn't pass muster on a review at this point because the USPTO's already rejecting things like that out of hand, citing that decision as being a reason for unpatentabilty.


CNET stresses that TomTom's defensive counterstrike does not directly defend Linux and therefore it does not resolve the problem; it pushes it away which is a form of procrastination.

TomTom fights back, but not over Linux



[...]

I just wish that it were fighting over FAT, not GPS.

Both sides have engaged exceptional counsel, as Groklaw notes, but I doubt that the case will ever get to trial. Very few lawsuits ever make it so far, and the counsel on both sides will get paid handsomely to resolve the case at the lowest possible cost, which invariably means an out-of-court settlement.

That, too, doesn't work in favor of open source. I think that it's fair to say that open source would benefit--whatever the outcome--from seeing Microsoft's patents put on trial as they relate to Linux. Not only does TomTom's countersuit ignore the Linux-related patents, but given the likelihood that the suit will settle, it's likely that open source will be hurt, not helped, by the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) ignited by the lawsuits.


Where are those 42 patents from Microsoft anyway? If TomTom uses a classic Linux (kernel), as argued by a guru of gpl-violations, then why did Microsoft narrow down its claims so significantly?

Still, Microsoft has not backed off its claim that it owns 42 patents used in the creation of the Linux kernel, and its suit against TomTom indicates that the company intends to defend that claim in court, if necessary.


Here is another take, this time from IDG:

GPS device maker TomTom has shot back at Microsoft with a claim of patent infringement, after the software giant raised concerns in the Linux community with a recent lawsuit against TomTom.

[...]

That concerned Linux supporters, who worried that Microsoft might make good on past statements that it owns many patents for technologies used in Linux. But Microsoft said open source is not the focal point of its suit against TomTom. The case is about TomTom's specific implementation of the Linux kernel, Microsoft said.


Mr. gpl-violations has already refuted Microsoft's argument that TomTom has a "specific implementation" of Linux. He did inspect the code, too.

It's interesting to find that Microsoft sent its claim to the International Trade Commission (ITC), which seems to indicate that it's the old embargo strategy, whose purpose is to strangle competitors and pressure them into unwanted deals very quickly.

Microsoft filed its claim with the ITC, as well as a civil suit in federal court in Seattle, after the companies were unable to reach a patent-licensing agreement.


Microsoft did the same thing when it attacked Primax using patents. As Mary Jo Foley points out, TomTom is no easy nut for Microsoft to crack though. Maybe it's because of the GPL.

It looks like TomTom isn’t backing down from its refusal to become one of the growing list of companies signing cross-patent licensing agreements with the Softies…. And it looks like TomTom’s suit isn’t deterring Microsoft from its original complaints, either, based on the company’s statement on TomTom’s countersuit.


ITWire has amassed this list of the patents at play:

The four patents cited in the suit filed by TomTom are:

US Patent 5,902,350: Generating a maneuver (sic) at the intersection through a turn lane;

US Patent 5,938,720: Route generation in a vehicle navigation system;

US Patent 6,600,994:   Quick selection of destinations in an automobile navigation system; and

US Patent 6,542,814: Methods and apparatus for dynamic point of interest display.


Some more new references regarding the countersuit are included below for completeness and future use:





While I have no idea what is happening behind the scenes with the two companies, it appears that TomTom is one of the first to stand up against Microsoft’s use of patents to throw its weight around. The attention centering around the Microsoft filing is in relation to TomTom’s use of the Linux kernel to implement its file naming system. Many believe that this is the first blow from Microsoft in an all-out war against Linux. Whether or not this is the case, TomTom won’t be rolling over and settling behind closed doors back the looks of it.




The February suit brought by Microsoft said that TomTom was using part of its GPS technology that relied on the Linux OS.

That assertion raised eyebrows in the Linux community. For the past several years, Microsoft has claimed that it owns the patents to technology used in Linux. The open-source community has gone back and forth with the company, and recently Microsoft said it was willing to work out some kind of agreement with developers. Microsoft has said that the TomTom suit is not targeting open-source software.




For years, people in the software industry have noticed that patents have become the nuclear stockpiling of the tech industry. Lots of companies feel the need to stock up on as many patents as possible, not for any good reason -- but to have something to scare people off from suing, knowing that they'll get sued right back.


As one person wrote, "it's your turn, Microsoft."

Comments

Recent Techrights' Posts

The Persistent Nature of Freedom Isn't About Easy Routes
Resistance to oppression takes effort and sometimes money
Linux Months-Old News (LWN Uncorrected)
They could at least update the original
 
Links 21/06/2024: Overpopulation, Censorship, and Conflicts
Links for the day
IBM and Subsidiaries Sued for Ageism (Not Just for Racism)
This is already being discussed
UEFI is Against Computer Security, Its True Goal is to Curtail Adoption of GNU/Linux and BSDs on Existing or New PCs
the world is moving away from Windows
[Meme] Chat Control (EU) is All About Social Control
It won't even protect children
EFF Not Only Lobbies for TikTok (CPC) But for All Social Control Media, Irrespective of Known Harms as Explained by the US Government
The EFF's own "free speech" people reject free speech
Microsoft's Search (Bing) Fell From 3.3% to 1% in Turkey Just Since the LLM Hype Began
Bing fell sharply in many other countries
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Thursday, June 20, 2024
IRC logs for Thursday, June 20, 2024
The Real FSF Lost Well Over a Million Dollars Since the Defamation Attacks on Its Founder
2020-2023 income: -$659,756, -$349,927, -$227,857, and -$686,366, respectively
The Fake FSF ('FSF Europe') Connected to Novell Via SUSE, Not Just Via Microsoft (Repeated 'Donations')
'FSF Europe' is an imposter organisation
Just Less Than 3 Hours After Article on Debian Suicide Cluster Debian's Donald Norwood Recycles a Fortnight-Old 'Hit Piece'
The fall of Debian is its attack on its very own volunteers
IPFS censorship, Edward Brocklesby & Debian hacker expulsion
Reprinted with permission from disguised.work
Links 20/06/2024: Dumbphone Experience and Bad Encryption
Links for the day
Official Project Gemini news feed — Five years of Gemini!
the official statement
Ultimate Judgment: the Debian Suicide Cluster
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
Links 20/06/2024: Bruce Schneier Adds Moderation Policy, FUCKSHITUP Can't Be Trademarked in the US
Links for the day
Mass Layoffs Happening in IBM Subsidiaries, Almost No Media Exists Anymore (to Cover That)
They can drive people out with R.T.O. of lay off in small batches to prevent any media scrutiny
Links 20/06/2024: Trying to Maintain Health and the Implosion of LLM Bubble/Hype
Links for the day
Microsoft's Bing Share in Canada Has Only Decreased Since the LLM Hype ("Bing Chat")
According to statCounter
Gemini Links 20/06/2024: Golden Ticket and Looking for Web 1.0 Communities
Links for the day
Not Even TRYING to Compete With Microsoft
CMA (UK) ought to step in and investigate why Canonical (UK) refuses to even compete
Poul-Henning Kamp: Why Freedom in 'FOSS' Matters
Openwashing is more widely recognised as a growing problem
[Meme] EU Chat Control: The Problem is Too Much Privacy???
So what's with GDPR then? The EU is contradicting itself!
Lithuania: GNU/Linux Usage Climbs to Highest Level in Years
consistent abandonment of Microsoft
"Remarkably Little Had Changed."
Black or African American not even mentioned
This Week Fedora Celebrates Diversity, But It is Pushing Proprietary Software and Censorship
IBM openwashing, perception management, and reputation laundering gone awry?
Rumours That Nat Friedman (CEO) Was 'Fired' by GitHub/Microsoft
"Microsoft Refused to Fix Flaw Years Before SolarWinds Hack"
linuxsecurity.com: A Step in a Positive Direction
We hope that Guardian Digital and linuxsecurity.com will rectify the matter and persist with real articles
Links 20/06/2024: Somali Piracy Surges, Juneteenth Discussed
Links for the day
Gemini Links 20/06/2024: Gemini is 5 Today (Still No Gemlog Entry From its Founder)
Links for the day
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, June 19, 2024
IRC logs for Wednesday, June 19, 2024
Morocco: GNU/Linux Surges From 0.1% to 4.21%
Microsoft has mass layoffs in Africa these days
EU 'Chat Control' Law is Already Discrediting the Stated Goals of GDPR
Equip kids with always-on always-connected microphones and double-sided cameras, just to be safe...
[Meme] EU Chat Control II
Stuff like "Chat Control" means that GDPR will lose credibility and the true motives be rightly scrutinised/questioned
You're Only Proving Our Point, Sir
clearly obsessed with what we write
Just Because It Happened Over 20 Years Ago Doesn't Mean It's "Old News" or Stopped Happening
This strategy merely evolved
Thanking Solderpunk for 5 Years of Gemini Protocol
Long live Gemini Protocol and long live Solderpunk!
[Meme] He Who Controls the Boot
And licks the Microsoft boot
[Meme] systemd-recovery
Imagine "Linux" (Poetterix) becoming so unreliable that it needs factory resets
Almost Every Day This Month the GNU/Linux "Market Share" Grows in statCounter
Advocates like to see progress
Dawg, I Herd You Like Freedom
In the context of Software Freedom, little is ever said about free speech
Links 19/06/2024: Microsoft Faces Big Backlash, Bytedance Referred to US Department of Justice
Links for the day
Gemini Protocol Turns 5 in 15 Hours
Geminispace is still very much alive
OSI's Blog is Still 100% "AI" Nonsense Sponsored by Microsoft (the Authors Are Also Salaried by Microsoft)
The founder of the OSI no longer supports the OSI
Poland is Another Country Where Bing Lost a Lot of Market Share Since the LLM Gimmicks
down from 3.24% to 2.4%
Jean-Pierre Giraud, Possible Forgeries & Debian: elections, judgments, trademark already canceled, archaeologist
Reprinted with permission from Daniel Pocock
It Took Microsoft More Than 3 Years to Get a Quarter of Windows Users to 'Upgrade' to Vista 11 (3 Out of 4 Windows Users Still Reject It)
That is exactly what's happening right now
[Meme] The Empire
Don't be like Putin
They Want 'Transparency' Only for the General Public (Every Bit of Communication Available to the Government, Usually Via Corporations)
The EU might decide to effectively ban SSH
Justices Jeremy Johnson and Victoria Sharp to Decide the Fate of Julian Assange in About Three Weeks
Will he be back home in Australia by year's end?
Free Software Won't Fix Equality, But It Helps
Let's examine Free software in the context of: 1) money. 2) justice.
Treating Them as Teammates, Not as Political Props, Trophies, or Objects
Most of the world's people are women
Links 19/06/2024: SFTP and Gopher Milestone
Links for the day
Over at Tux Machines...
GNU/Linux news for the past day
IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, June 18, 2024
IRC logs for Tuesday, June 18, 2024
US Surgeon General's Advice on Social Control Media (and "Smart" Phones) Seems Reasonable
People forget what the real world is about
Quiet at Planet Debian
planet.debian.org has not had any updates since 5 days ago
Belarus: Bing Fell From 1.1% to 0.6% Since Microsoft Started the LLM Hype (Yandex is 50 Times Bigger Than Bing)
Now enter Belarus
Morale at Microsoft Sinks to New Lows
The annual 'Employee Signals' survey showed a drop from 69% to 62% in positive responses