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TomTom - "Settled, But Not Over Yet" says SFLC - Update
Monday, March 30 2009 @ 06:22 PM EDT

Software Freedom Law Center has put out the following statement, which is harmonious with everything else I've been able to glean:
Settled, But Not Over Yet

Today's settlement between Microsoft and TomTom ends one phase of the community's response to Microsoft patent aggression, and begins another. On the basis of the information we have, we have no reason to believe that TomTom's settlement agreement with Microsoft violates the license on the kernel, Linux, or any other free software used in its products. The settlement neither implies that Microsoft patents are valid nor that TomTom's products were or are infringing.

There's more. Red Hat's legal eagles have put out a statement too, the meat of which is this: "Red Hat was not a party to this case. Even so, without a judicial decision, the settlement does not demonstrate that the claims of Microsoft were valid."

In fact, SFLC says they believe they are invalid:
The FAT filesystem patents on which Microsoft sued are now and have always been invalid patents in our professional opinion. SFLC remains committed to protecting the interests of our clients and the community. We will act forcefully to protect all users and developers of free software against further intimidation or interference from these patents.

SFLC, working with the Open Invention Network and the Linux Foundation, is pleased to participate in a coordinated, carefully graduated response on behalf of all the community's members to ongoing anti-competitive Microsoft conduct. We believe in strength through unity, and we think our community's unity in the face of these threats has helped to bring about Microsoft's quick settlement on all issues with TomTom.

What? You thought Microsoft's spin on things was always Gospel? This doesn't mean TomTom was the greatest with the mostest. But it means they colored within the lines. And now, stay tuned. It sounds like we all get to participate in "a coordinated, carefully graduated response ... to ongoing anti-competitive Microsoft conduct."

Whoah. I'm in. You?

Update: I thought it would be good to show you what some thought would happen to TomTom, written by Brian Kahin, Senior Fellow at the Computer & Communications Industry Association in Washington, DC., on Huffington Post, back when the Microsoft lawsuit was filed:

So here's what it looks like to me:

1. Microsoft has abandoned its long history of not suing on software patents, in order to attack the Linux operating system. (Other patents at issue are specific to GPS systems.)

2. It has attacked Linux in the embedded devices market, where Linux has been conspicuously successful. This avoids the problem of suing developers or users of Linux distributions, such as Red Hat, which would threaten the many large Microsoft customers that use both Windows and Linux.

3. Even if the Linux community rides to the rescue, TomTom will be under pressure from its shareholders to settle quickly on "undisclosed terms" and, weakened as is, to avoid the cost and uncertainty of making a posterchild of itself.

4. More likely, TomTom will sell out to Microsoft, which tried to buy TomTom in mid-2006. Companies with large patent portfolios can drive hard bargains. With TomTom in a bind at the bank, Microsoft can use its patents to acquire TomTom on the cheap.

5. By demonstrating its willingness to sue a small company, Microsoft can induce others to settle, while undermining confidence in the market for embedded Linux. By contrast, when IBM sought to impress the world with its patent portfolio, it at least picked on Amazon -- a company able to defend itself and with a reputation for asserting patents aggressively. (Remember the one-click ordering patent that Amazon used in its holiday-season attack on Barnes and Noble?)....

In fact, the lawsuit publicizes a patent trap of Microsoft's own creation. Microsoft created a de facto industry standard in the FAT (File Allocation Table) format that it made widely available for adoption without letting it be known that it held and would assert the patents behind the standard. What makes the FAT patents valuable is not the technology behind them but the fact that they were promoted and accepted as a standard without word that Microsoft would someday come asking for money. Two of the patents are for converting between long and short file names - a FAT function that is commonly implemented in digital cameras, MP3 players, and other devices, not just in Windows and Linux.

As you can see, Microsoft goals, as he saw them, were not successful. TomTom was not weakened or taken over by Microsoft, and it continues to operate, using Linux, and without violating the GPL.

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