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TomTom Settlement Aftermath: Get the FAT Out - Updated
Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 04:03 PM EDT

The Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin got the same message from the TomTom story that I did: just get rid of Microsoft's FAT LFN filesystem:
The technology at the heart of this settlement is the FAT [LFN] filesystem. As acknowledged by Microsoft in the press release, this file system is easily replaced with multiple technology alternatives. The Linux Foundation is here to assist interested parties in the technical coordination of removing the FAT filesystem from products that make use of it today.
OK. Sounds like a plan. There clearly is no "new" Microsoft, and they have evidenced now a lack of interest in any real interoperability with FOSS. Bruce Perens offers a list of applications to watch out for:
All of that talk about interoperability with Linux coming from them? It was just talk, because they've shown that anyone who tries to interoperate with Microsoft technology even as simple as the FAT filesystem will eventially be sued, or pushed into licensing, for their efforts. The way they act, the Microsoft-internal definition of "interoperability" must be "making the whole world owe us."

And so, you should be wary of FAT, Office Open XML, .NET (including Mono), Silverlight, and of Microsoft's participation in standards committees that don't have a clear royalty-free committment, or, as is the case for Office Open XML, when the royalty-free committment is less than complete. These technologies leave the door open for submarine patents to sink your business.

Ah, yes. Mono. Once again. And OOXML. Might governmental agencies wish to particularly take note of OOXML in light of the TomTom settlement? I would think so. And .NET and Silverlight. Perhaps you can think of others.

More of the message from Zemlin:
In the last several days Microsoft has shown that despite claims of acquiring a newly found respect for open principles and technology, developers should be cautious in believing promises made by this “new” Microsoft. When it counts, it appears that Microsoft still actively seeks to undermine those technologies or standards that are truly open, especially when those technologies pose a significant threat to their business.

Yesterday, Microsoft announced with a formal press release a settlement of a nuisance patent case filed against a smaller company. Despite Microsoft’s protestations to the contrary, the press release makes it clear that the motivation behind this case was the fear, uncertainty and doubt Microsoft hoped the suit would create around the use of Linux. Linux is, not coincidentally, one of Microsoft’s strongest threats in the server, embedded and desktop computing arenas as evidenced in recent remarks make by its CEO Steve Ballmer.

But the settlement of this suit only proves two things. First, the software patent system in the US needs reform. The need for reform stems from why common functionality like this (which is neither innovative nor novel) was granted a patent in the first place.

Second, it proves that, even apart from this larger issue, this case is a non-event. The technology at the heart of this settlement is the FAT filesystem. As acknowledged by Microsoft in the press release, this file system is easily replaced with multiple technology alternatives. The Linux Foundation is here to assist interested parties in the technical coordination of removing the FAT filesystem from products that make use of it today.

There is another silver lining here. We read the outcome of this case as a testament to the power of a concerted and well-coordinated effort by the Linux industry and organizations such as the Open Invention Network, the SFLC and the Linux Foundation. This was not merely a typical David vs. Goliath story. This time David aligned itself with the multiple slingshots of the Linux community. Microsoft relented as soon as TomTom showed they were aligned with that community and ready to fight. The system is working.

There is one other fact clear from this case. Microsoft does not appear to be a leopard capable of changing its spots. Maybe it’s time developers go on a diet from Microsoft and get the FAT out of their products.

More from Perens:
Microsoft and TomTom have settled their patent lawsuit in a way that leaves Microsoft's FAT patents active as a threat to other companies. ...

Justice lost because there's been no trial to overturn the FAT filesystem patents. As venture capitalist Larry Augustin wrote: "Those of us who have PhDs in computer disciplines and have studied operating systems and file systems, don't see anything particularly innovative in FAT or its extension to support longer file names, FAT32." ...

A trial to invalidate the eight patents Microsoft brought against TomTom, none of them poster-boys for innovation, would have cost more than TomTom had to spend, perhaps in excess of $10 million dollars. Obviously Microsoft offered TomTom an out for much less than that, but all we've been told is that TomTom paid Microsoft, and Microsoft didn't have to pay Tomtom. How much?

There's nothing in the press release about the settlement to contradict the notion that TomTom might have settled for one dollar. The terms of settlements are generally sealed by the court, with penalties for disclosure. Sometimes we can find out about them in later financial filings of the companies involved, but this isn't always the case. What Microsoft really wants from TomTom isn't money, it's support in building fear about Linux in other companies, especially the makers of mobile and wireless devices just like TomTom's own product. Microsoft wants you to believe you need a Microsoft license to deploy Open Source software. This settlement is likely to deter some of those companies from using Linux at all.

He goes on to compare the workaround to the Novell deal, and I disagree that they are identical or that TomTom was disrespectful to the GPL. It did its best.

But let's face the simple truth. The Linux kernel guys have a role to play too. If they had upgraded the kernel to GPLv3, that would have been the end of this kind of Microsoft nonsense. I would very much like them to seriously reconsider their position now. FOSS legal eagles can only do so much with one hand tied behind their backs. While you are thinking it over, please consider Microsoft's announced goal: that FOSS applications run on Microsoft, not on your kernel. Think deep thoughts, please, and think strategically. What is *most* important at this particular time in history? It's your decision, of course, but take a look at the landscape, will you?

And I have a message for OSI and the Apache guys and anyone trying to push the idea that Microsoft should be treated just like everyone else because it's trying to be more "open" now: No. It isn't.

Wake up. Microsoft should be treated like Microsoft.

It is what it is. It is what it always has been.

Microsoft asked recently to be judged by its actions, not its words. OK. The TomTom settlement *is* Microsoft actions. We watched it, and we judge them by it.

Can you think of other things to add to Perens' list? We did that somewhat in a piecemeal fashion on other articles, but I'd like it all in one place, right here, so anyone wishing to avoid FAT, now that they've seen Microsoft in action in this litigation, will be informed. As for justice, there is that old saying, the wheels of justice grind slow, but they grind exceeding fine.

Update: Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols has a response from Dan Ravicher of PubPat and Software Freedom Law Center. He's not positive that the GPL wasn't violated, and points out we can't know one way or the other without actually seeing the agreement:

Daniel B. Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation, a nonprofit legal services group that tracks the patents system, said he isn't sure the settlement meets the GPL's legal requirements.

"Without being able to review the specific terms of the agreement, it's impossible to say whether this is a good or bad thing. And, while it is possible to settle a patent infringement case in a way that allows the continued distribution of the allegedly infringing code under the GPL, again, without seeing the specific terms of this agreement, one can't say whether such is the case here or not."

In any case, Ravicher continued, "regardless of the settlement, the lawsuit brought by Microsoft was a severe escalation in patent hostility toward the Linux kernel specifically and free/open-source software in general. And the entire community should still be thinking about ways to address that threat."


TomTom Settlement Aftermath: Get the FAT Out - Updated | 329 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Any corrections?
Authored by: perpetualLurker on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 04:13 PM EDT

Corrections in the title, Please!


"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." --
Mark Twain

[ Reply to This | # ]

Comments on any News Picks?
Authored by: perpetualLurker on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 04:14 PM EDT

Let's try this again, with Feeling... and my ID....


"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." --
Mark Twain

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic discussions go here, please!
Authored by: perpetualLurker on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 04:15 PM EDT

Thank you!


"Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society." --
Mark Twain

[ Reply to This | # ]

A note on kernel in GPLv3
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 04:35 PM EDT
I can't comment on the kernel license, but I think you make an incorrect statement when you say
If they had upgraded the kernel to GPLv3, that would have been the end of this kind of Microsoft nonsense.
The reason is: I don't know (and honestly I doubt) that TomTom has a kernel sufficiently recent to have an eventual GPLv3 license: they probably use a kernel version that is older than the GPLv3.

If I'm wrong please hit me on the head (preferably hard).


[ Reply to This | # ]

TomTom Settlement Aftermath: Get the FAT Out
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 04:37 PM EDT
Seriously, did anyone really believe that M$ had changed
their ways? All that talk has been PR, plain and simple.
Honorable people and organizations don't need PR. Their
actions speak for them.


[ Reply to This | # ]

TomTom Settlement means patents no longer have effect
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 05:14 PM EDT
I sent this idea to SFLC, but I'll post it here, too. If the agreement between
Microsoft and TomTom allows TomTom to meet its obligations under GPLv2, then at
least one of the following must be true: there is no code that infringes any of
the named patents that are valid, or, Microsoft has granted TomTom a license to
distribute infringing code without restriction, as required by GPLv2. In either
case the effect is the same: there is nothing preventing the code from remaining
in the Linux kernel.

I am not a lawyer, so it is likely I'm missing something.

[ Reply to This | # ]

FAT is everywhere
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 05:53 PM EDT
Unfortunately a lot of devices, with which Linux systems want to interoperate,
use FAT. FAT is everywhere, on every memory stick and thumb drive. Every
camera, every cellphone, every MP3 player, they all use FAT. So every system
that wants to share data with those devices has to talk FAT. I think. Is there
any way around this?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Why can't newer parts of the kernel go GPLv3?
Authored by: gard on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 06:12 PM EDT

I understand why the complete kernel can't go GPLv3 until all contributors
consent or GPLv2 parts are rewritten and released under v3. But why should the
entire kernel be under a single license? So long as the maintainers would agree
to accept GPLv3 code, the v3 license itself does not preclude co-existence with
v2 code; or, does it? A mixed GPLv2, v3 kernel will have to be released by
acknowledging that parts are under one license and parts under the other. But
distro-vendors can not sign patent agreements of the Novell kind without losing
their rights to release the GPLv3 parts of the kernel or cover all parts of the
kernel under their agreement. I am sure I am missing something very obvious
here. What is it?


[ Reply to This | # ]

Replace FAT with what?
Authored by: ghopper on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 06:39 PM EDT
FAT is trivial to replace in these embedded devices. However, the problem comes
when you want to connect your device to your computer that runs Windows.
Windows does not support very many file systems (FAT and NTFS are the only ones
that come to mind). Most people don't want to install some 3rd party device
driver to download pictures from their camera. If the device doesn't speak FAT,
then Windows will not be able to read it. None of the device manufacturers want
to invent a new file system that makes their product incompatible with Windows.
(How would that affect sales?)

Even Apple folded on this one. An iPod comes formatted with an HFS variant, but
if you want to sync with a PC, you need to reformat it with FAT. This isn't
because Apple doesn't have another file system, it's because Microsoft refuses
to support anything other than FAT. Instead, Apple could have written an HFS
filesystem driver for Windows, but would customers have accepted that?

Seriously, if an embedded device manufacturer wanted to invent a file system,
they would pick something with better wear-leveling characteristics than FAT.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 07:25 PM EDT
Both the novell deal and this one promises ms wont sue end users, im kinda
curious as to what realistic chance they would have against an end user that
bought a product that the end user doesn't, and cannot posibly know infringes a
I know it is not very likely to happen anyway, but am still curious about the

[ Reply to This | # ]

  • curious - Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 01:37 PM EDT
TomTom Settlement Aftermath: Get the FAT Out - Updated
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 08:02 PM EDT
maybe it's time for a preemptive suite like red had filed against SCO, force
Microsoft to defend those patents

[ Reply to This | # ]

Patent Expiration, etc
Authored by: mexaly on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 08:28 PM EDT
When do(es) the(se) FAT patent(s) expire? 1990 was 19 years ago; there were
floppy disks back then, that had FAT filesystems.

I realize FAT has evolved, and the later versions probably have later patents.

But if there is an old enough patent, or a new FAT-compatible, non-monopoly
filesystem can be created to interoperate with the FAT family, wouldn't that get
around Microsoft's death-grip?

How long before the FAT patents don't matter anymore?

Also, how did this issue get killed with GIF? It was pretty much the same
picture until the owner of the patent buckled: old, ubiquitous technology that
had so many users that the owner couldn't sue them all.

IANAL, but I watch actors play lawyers on television.
My thanks go out to PJ and the legal experts that make Groklaw great.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Interoperability -- Linux's Achilles heel?
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 08:35 PM EDT

This quest needs to end.

We've seen now how much Microsoft respects it, so Linux needs to kiss off
Microsoft, too. If Microsoft wants to interoperate with Linux, they can do so
very easily. After all, it is acceptable, even under GPL3, to write proprietary
apps for Linux. Microsoft should come to us, not the other way around.

Isn't Linux mature enough now to do without FAT, VFAT, or even NTFS? Isn't it
time for Linux to make the break now? Get it out of the Linux kernel. Get a new
plan, Stan, and get yourself free.

Corporations can keep just enough Windows around to run their specialty apps. I
have a feeling that the critical mass of Linux will come. The specialty app
companies will follow.

This is because Microsoft has an uncanny ability to make enemies. I doubt that
anyone WANTS to do business with them. So, in this sense, I think Microsoft may
be Linux's best recruiter -- and I might even welcome more Microsoft lawsuits,
just for this reason.

[ Reply to This | # ]

TomTom Settlement Aftermath: Get the FAT Out - Updated
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, April 01 2009 @ 10:32 PM EDT
Is it possible to counter sue a group like the SD association for using exFAT in
the next generation format now due to the strings attached issues with
Microsoft, based on the issues over FAT. It is just another vendor lawsuit
waiting to happen like this one.

[ Reply to This | # ]

TomTom Settlement Aftermath: Get the FAT Out - Updated
Authored by: wvhillbilly on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 12:27 AM EDT
I'd say getting the FAT out would be a very good idea. Just think-if everyone
got the FAT out of all FOSS software, and enough people would switch to Linux,
Microsoft would find themselves shut **OUT** instead of their customers locked

Well, a fella can dream, can't he?

Trusted computing:
It's not about, "Can you trust your computer?"
It's all about, "Can your computer trust you?"

[ Reply to This | # ]

Why no intervention lawsuits?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 12:28 AM EDT
I'm not a litigation lawyer, but isn't there a concept in litigation where
somebody who has an interest in a case can intervene?

For example, in the Tom Tom case Microsoft has apparently provided Tom Tom with
a promise not to sue Tom Tom's customers. Couldn't Tom Tom's customers move to
intervene in the case and see exactly what this supposed promise consists of,
since the promise affects THEM?

Or couldn't Linux copyright holders intervene and also seek to have their
interests protected? Why is it okay for Microsoft to sue and enter into
settlements with third parties like Tom Tom when the terms of the settlement
very much affect the actual Linux copyright holders?
Shouldn't the people this actually affects have a say?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Gary Rebak's book
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 01:29 AM EDT
I would sure love to read it, but will not.
I would have a stroke half way through.
Dennis H.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Feel free to GPL3 YOUR kernel contributions, PJ
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 04:45 AM EDT
I'm keeping mine as GPL2, thanks all the same.

[ Reply to This | # ]

TomTom Settlement Aftermath: Get the FAT Out - Updated
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 05:45 AM EDT
I'm sorry - I'm probably being a bit naive here.

Surely the whole ethos behind the development of the patent system is that,
unlike copyrights, patents run out in less than 20-30 years. The patent system
was developed primarily to bring technologies into the open. A secondary
consideration (and the carrot for companies to look to patent their innovative
ideas) is that it gives the patent holder protection from copying or the ability
to financially exploit the patent for a LIMITED period.

I would think that, under the British system (and presupposing it could be
patented) any patent raised on FAT system "innovations" would have run
out by now.

[ Reply to This | # ]

How exactly would GPLv3 have helped?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 09:22 AM EDT
But let's face the simple truth. The Linux kernel guys have a role to play too. If they had upgraded the kernel to GPLv3, that would have been the end of this kind of Microsoft nonsense.

If the kernel had gone GPLv3, what we would have seen is the first real test of that license against a patent attack. That's when we find out whether it is a worthwhile improvement to the GPL which would "end this nonsense", or a Quixotic attempt to nail the fog of the MS/Novell agreement to a wall which would have simply forced TomTom to cave and expensively re-tool to a non-free OS. All distributers of embedded Linux would have been watching closely.

(The interesting bit would have been when TomTom made their decision and the kernel team had to decide whether it violated the GPLv3 and, if so, what to do...)

As it is, TomTom have had to promise to remove the FAT functionality, rather than simply pay a license fee because the GPLv2 makes it quite clear that you can't do that. Score one for GPLv2.

Now we see how TomTom deal with complaints from people who can't use FAT formatted cards (from phones, cameras, media players etc.) in their satnav. Do they (a) persuade the memory card industry to switch to ext4, (b) pay someone to write a proprietary binary-blob, userland FAT implementation that they can license or (c) use their grace period to switch to a closed-source OS.

Place your bets.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Reply to David Ravicher comments
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 09:51 AM EDT
Since the settlement might have violated the GPL, couldn't someone compel the
courts to open it up to a GPL lawyer as a potentially affected party?

[ Reply to This | # ]

OOXML isn't relevant to this discussion
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 10:01 AM EDT
Given the agreements Microsoft has signed on OOXML, and the fact that it has pretty clear terms covering possible OOXML patents, bringing in OOXML seems tinged with equal parts tinfoil hat and overreaction.

If Microsoft had brought LFN FAT through a standards body of any sort, that might have made for some comparisons. But it didn't. Since LFN FAT was never in a standard, companies that decided to roll the dice and not take a license for something that they knew Microsoft had a patent on deserve what they get.

It's not like LFN FAT patent snuck up on anyone; Ravisher was fighting about this years ago.

Moreover, it's worth noting that the biggest patent holder in the world, IBM, doesn't seem to really be worried about this. Part of it might be that they currently cross license patents with Microsoft and are therefore protected - why should they go out of their way to help competing companies?

It's obvious that there are newer filesystems that are better, so go forth and promote them at every turn. Whining about Microsoft's decision to make money from selling/protecting products seems like a "no kidding sherlock" effort.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Sad State of Affairs - Settlement Aftermath: Get the FAT Out - Updated
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 10:38 AM EDT
"...Mono. Once again. And OOXML. Might governmental agencies wish to
particularly take note of OOXML..."

I recently attended a Linux User Group meeting where the presenter was providing
a presentation on Mono. He had put his slides together before Microsoft bought
the Tom Tom suit.

One of the slides brought up the Microsoft Patent risk, but Microsoft would not
likely sue for patent violations. I interrupted the presentation to mention Tom
Tom, and he admitted that was an exception.

Whatever good will had been built up, whatever fears that had been allied by
Microsoft's Open Source initiative, have been smashed, quashed, destroyed by
this suit. I don't know what legal "expert" in Microsoft decided this
would be a good thing to do, but how ever the, er, individual was that person
undid a lot of hard work on the part of some Microsoft people.

Trust Microsoft? HA


You asked why develop for the Windows platform. The sad state of affairs is
that you have to be able to communicate with Windows system. If we can't use
Fat to share with Windows, then we need a way to talk to a Linux FS from
Windows. One or the other we are stuck with, and so, it appears we need to
develop a Windows product. (I think one is in the work, or has been developed,
but I've not looked for it.) That still doesn't solve the problem Tom Tom has
of having to interface with people who are running Windows on their systems.
Any other product that has to talk to windows, also has that problem.

Just sign me, I HATE MICROSOFT!!!!!!!!!!!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Please do not use GPL3 !
Authored by: DannyB on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 11:04 AM EDT
Please do not use GPL3!
says paid Microsoft shills in their plea,
How can Microsoft steal
or sign a patent deal?
When you license PLEASE choose BSD.

Somehow we must kill GPL.
We don't think that it is very swell.
Hippies like it a lot!
It's a communist plot!
We can't monitize your code to sell!

The price of freedom is eternal litigation.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: bjnord on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 11:12 AM EDT
'As venture capitalist Larry Augustin wrote: "Those of us who have PhDs in
computer disciplines and have studied operating systems and file systems, don't
see anything particularly innovative in FAT or its extension to support longer
file names, FAT32." ...'

Whoops... the extension to support longer file names is VFAT. FAT32 is a version
of FAT that supports more clusters, which was needed once larger and larger hard
drives came on the scene and exceeded what FAT could use efficiently.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Repeat after me - Microsoft Software Is Unnecessary
Authored by: TiddlyPom on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 11:33 AM EDT
I use Linux on a daily basis.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS at work.
Ubuntu, Debian and variants thereof anywhere else.

I do not use (or need to use) ANY MICROSOFT SOFTWARE on a daily basis and certainly do not do so on my own computers.

I create documents using OpenOffice 3.x and swap them with users running Microsoft Office 2003/2007 without problems. I use GIMP to modify images (instead of Adobe PhotoShop on the PC) and CUPS-PDF to render things to PDF (rather than needing Acrobat Acrobat/Distiller). I use Eclipse and Code::Blocks to develop code and MySQL to hold my data and read my email using a company SquirrelMail web portal

My portable USB hard drive is formatted as EXT3 (actually set up as 3 partitions - root, swap and home with a bootable copy of i386 Ubuntu 8.10 on it) and /home contains a copy of EXT2IFS (Windows file system driver for EXT2/EXT3) and Explore2fs. At this point other people can use my flash drive/USB disk under Windows if they want to.

I prefer to boot from this if possible (as it has OpenOffice and all of my development tools on it) rather than using Windows but in some cases I boot briefly into Linux just to transfer EXT2IFS to the NTFS volume or Explore2fs if I cannot install any drivers on the PC). Once installed I ALWAYS use EXT2/3 in preference to NTFS or FAT/FAT32

FAT32 is a real pain in the behind anyway as cluster sizes become huge with modern hard drives and not being able to create a single file bigger than 2GB is just plain stupid.

If you use a 'device' then it should use an unencumbered file system. EXT2 would work for flash disks (which is what I use on my USB flash drives). The biggest pain is things like Cameras which use FAT/FAT32 at the moment although they do not NEED long file names and hence cannot be clobbered by Microsoft.

The point I'm trying to make is that Microsoft Software IS UNNECESSARY, their patented broken standards and bloatware is not worth paying for and the Universe will not collapse without Microsoft Software. I have heard so many people say that they cannot survive without Microsoft software but when it comes down to it - this is just a fear of the unknown and in the vast majority of cases turns out not to be true.

They have simply been brainwashed by Microsoft.

The thing that will kill Microsoft's stranglehold on the IT industry is to show as many people as possible that you can simply replace Microsoft software/tools with open source replacements, save lots of money, use less memory/CPU/GPU and still do the sorts of things that you are used to.

Don't let this TomTom case fool you. Microsoft has started to feel the the winds of change and knows that its monopoly days are numbered. Lets help them on their way shall we :)

One last thing - if a loved one wants you to fix a broken Microsoft system - do it in a loving way but TELL THEM NO. If you give in, you are prolonging their ADDICTION to Microsoft and as with drug addicts this is not helping them. Suggest switching to open source applications running on Windows first then over to Linux when they are happy with that.

Microsoft Software is expensive, bloated, bug-ridden and unnecessary.
Use Open Source Software instead.

[ Reply to This | # ]

This is extremely bad advice
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 12:24 PM EDT
FAT (the original system that restricted you to "8.3" filenames) isn't
patented. The patents in question cover the encoding of long filenames that
VFAT uses, and furthermore if you read the patent claims, every single claim
requires the creation of a new file with a long name.

So a read-only implementation does not infringe, and an implementation that
refuses to create new files whose names aren't in 8.3 format doesn't infringe.

Crippling Linux systems so they can no longer read cards from digital cameras,
when this is completely unnecessary, would be a disaster.

Groklaw's reputation will also be harmed if this article isn't corrected.

In any case, the patents are wildly overbroad, designed to cover any possible
way of encoding long file names in a system originally designed with length
limits. If it's upheld, next Groklaw will be telling us to rip CD-ROM support
out of our Linux systems. You do know how the Rock Ridge extensions work, don't
you? If not, you'd better find out.

[ Reply to This | # ]

TomTom Settlement Aftermath: Get the FAT Out - Updated
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 02:52 PM EDT
"But let's face the simple truth. The Linux kernel guys have a role to play
too. If they had upgraded the kernel to GPLv3, that would have been the end of
this kind of Microsoft nonsense."

Interesting. So you don't hold the FSF responsible in any way? Linus asked to be
consulted privately, they said no.

I guess we should wait for The Hurd.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What about FreeDOS???
Authored by: rsi on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 02:55 PM EDT
I am a little confused. Why couldn't TomTom, or anyone else just use FreeDOS to
implement FAT/VFAT/VFAT32? And why hasn't Mickey$oft tried to shut down
FreeDOS, or attempt to force it to pay the M$ Tax???

Wouldn't the fact that FreeDOS exists royalty free trump Mickey$oft in any
Patent Suit???

I may be missing something.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Complete Tosh
Authored by: sproggit on Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 03:46 PM EDT
I think we need to try and re-think the approach here. If we look back at the
history of both MS/DOS and the FAT File System, they have some common ancestry.
MS/DOS, which from a Microsoft perspective introduced the FAT file system and
it's various peculiarities, was really cloned from CP/M.

Lots of good debate in earlier posts in this thread point out that, for a patent
to be granted, it has to be both innovative *and* non-obvious.

Can anyone tell me how Microsoft can claim, with a straight face, that MS/DOS is
both unique and innovative when others had developed this technology before they

There is no way that this patent would withstand a properly structured
challenge. It's clear from all of PJ's research and the posts of others that
TomTom folded in all probability because Microsoft made it easier for them to
reach a settlement than to fight on.

We might well speculate that such a result was Redmond's game plan from day one,
especially if the settlement had a confidentiality clause in it. Such a term
benefits a corporate bully who wants to use the legal result to encourage others
to follow in TomTom's footsteps.

PJ and other regulars have made a terrific start here, in terms of building a
body of evidence that can be used to demonstrate the invalidity of the so-called
8 Microsoft FAT patents. Perhaps we can all help to augment that with more
material, and clearly help other companies who may already be in conversation
with Microsoft.

And for what it's worth, isn't it about time that companies who file specious
patent claims get sanctioned for deceptive business practices.

Oh, and this may or may not be a related question, but is obtaining monies or
other benefits through false pretenses [ were such to be the case ] a crime? I'm
sure there's something 'not quite cricket' with such a situation.

Anyone with more specific experience able to clarify?

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TomTom Settlement Aftermath: Get the FAT Out - Updated
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, April 03 2009 @ 12:19 PM EDT
I agree with you that the patent provisions in GPLv3 would have helped with this
situation. However many of the objections to the GPLv3 had to do with
"anti-tivoization" clauses in the GPLv3. As well, the "additional
permissions" mechanism allows, perversely, for additional conditions like
badgeware. That is why Sugar CRM went GPlv3, and why when a package is labeled
GPLv3 you have to read the fine print to see what the actual
"permissions" (restrictions) might be. GPLv3 software could not be
used on an airbus, for example, as you would be legally obligated to turn over
the digital signing key for the Airbus' cockpit computer. Linus himself has said
that he has no objections to Tivo requiring a digital cert to boot their device,
only that they re-publish their software changes.

Sometimes advocates can be so concerned about the rights of the user that they
forget about the rights of the developer. In this case, the developer said,
thanks but no thanks for your fill-in-the-blanks legal form.

The FSF made a tactical decision to proceed even though they knew the provisions
were not popular. The FSF is therefore responsible for this mess, for their
brinksmanship they have reaped a harvest of irrelance.

If the FSF wants to be relevant and effective, they will have to replace their
leader and improve their attitude. And they should remember that their
constituency is not non-programmers trying to direct the actions of programmers,
it is the programmers themselves.

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