# # Why is Microsoft suing TomTom?
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Why is Microsoft suing TomTom? Why doesn't TomTom just pay up?

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© February 2009 Anthony Lawrence

Microsoft is beating the Linux patent drum again, this time against TomTom. Apparently the Linux part of this is TomTom's use of FAT, which would make you laugh out loud if it weren't so sick.

TomTom uses FAT to make it easy for Windows users to copy stuff to or from their GPS and their computer. Cameras do the same thing. So does OS X. Unless you want to annoy Windows users, that's pretty much your choice.

Interoperability is of course part of what makes Microsoft a popular choice among the technologically illiterate. Many companies deliberately adopt open standards to encourage other products to work more easily with theirs; Microsoft deliberately chooses just the opposite. Will your Windows XP machine recognize any open source file systems? You can mount NFS with their "Services for Unix" but I'd guess that's far beyond a typical Windows user's skill set. No, TomTom and everybody else needs FAT, and Microsoft is going to make them pay for the privilege.

Not that they have to pay much. I couldn't find current rates at Microsoft's site, but a few years back the fee was a mere twenty five cents per unit with a cap at $250,000. That's peanuts. You'd eat up more than that in lawyer fees before you got anywhere near to a court date. That, of course, is why everybody Microsoft has sued before has just caved in and paid up. So.. why is TomTom fighting back? That makes no sense.

Groklaw says says it makes no sense for Microsoft either. They seem to think that the Bilski decision of late last year changes everything and that Microsoft's FAT patents are toothless now.

These patents won't be around much longer anyway: by 2017 the last of them will have expired.

Notice this: when Microsoft talks about this case, they seem to want to mention "Linux" much more than "FAT". That's probably because most people would agree with us that suing over FAT use does seem kind of ornery and nasty. Gosh, it makes Microsoft look like a bunch of rapacious, money grubbing s.o.b's with no sense of fair play. Mentioning Linux also doesn't hurt in the FUD department - better stay away from that Linux stuff because you might get sued! So from Microsoft's point of view, it's almost all upside: their legal costs are incredibly small (the team is already up to speed; this is a cookie-cutter suit for them), they get to test FAT against Bilski if TomTom is silly enough to stand up and fight, and in the mean time it's more mud spattered at Linux.

But.. I still don't see why they'd risk the Bilski test. There has to be more to this because it seems to me like the smart move for Microsoft would be to ignore TomTom. Is it worth risking a bad turn on Bilski grounds for a lousy $250,000 or so? Of course it also seems like the smart move for TomTom would be to just pay up because again, it's small money. So here we are: it seems silly on all sides, doesn't it?


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Thu Feb 26 17:45:22 2009: 5523   T

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Since you didn't mention the Patents involved it is difficult to be sure, but I imagine that a patent to FAT (which I assume is File Allocation Table) is likely to be tightly coupled to computer readable media (e.g., a disk, memory, etc). Accordingly, such claims are likely to meet the Machine portion of the Machine or Transformation test decreed in Bilski....





Fri Feb 27 11:53:31 2009: 5525   anonymous

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And here are the claims in the long file name patent:

1. In a computer system having a processor running an operating system and a memory means storing the operating system, a method comprising the computer-implemented steps of:

(a) storing in the memory means a first directory entry for a file wherein the first directory entry holds a short filename for the file, said short filename including at most a maximum number of characters that is permissible by the operating system;
(b) storing in the memory means a second directory entry for a the file wherein the second directory entry holds a long filename for the file and wherein the second directory entry includes an attributes field which may be set to make the second directory entry invisible to the operating system and the step of storing the second directory entry further comprises the step of setting the attributes field so that the second directory entry is invisible to the operating system, said long filename including more than the maximum number of characters that is permissible by the operating system; and
(c) accessing the first directory entry with the operating system.

2. In a computer system having a processor running an operating system and a memory means storing the operating system, a method, comprising the computer-implemented steps of:

(a) storing in the memory means a first directory entry for a file wherein the first directory entry holds a short filename for the file, said short filename including at most a maximum number of characters that is permissible by the operating system;
(b) storing in the memory means a second directory entry for the file wherein the second directory entry holds a long filename for the file and storing a checksum of the short filename in the second directory entry, said long filename including more than the maximum number of characters that is permissible by the operating system; and
(c) accessing the first directory entry with the operating system.

3. In a computer system having a processor running an operating system and a memory means storing the operating system, a method, comprising the computer-implemented steps of:

(a) storing in the memory means a first directory entry for a file wherein the first directory entry holds a short filename for the file, said short filename including at most a maximum number of characters that is permissible by the operating system;
(b) storing in the memory means a second directory entry for the file wherein the second directory entry holds a long filename for the file, said long filename including more than the maximum number of characters that is permissible by the operating system;
(c) accessing the first directory entry with the operating system;
(d) storing in the memory means at least one additional directory entry holding a next portion of the long filename and a checksum of the short filename.

4. In a computer system having a processor running an operating system and a memory means storing the operating system, a method, comprising the computer-implemented steps of:

(a) storing in the memory means a first directory entry for a file wherein the first directory entry holds a short filename for the file, said short filename including at most a maximum number of characters that is permissible by the operating system;
(b) storing in the memory means a second directory entry for the file wherein the second directory entry holds a long filename for the file, said long filename including more than the maximum number of characters that is permissible by the operating system;
(c) accessing the first directory entry with the operating system;
(d) storing in the memory means at least one additional directory entry holding a next portion of the long filename and a signature that uniquely identifies which portion of the long filename.

As you can see, they are all tightly coupled to a machine. Accordingly they pass the Bilski test.



Fri Feb 27 13:28:55 2009: 5527   TonyLawrence

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Ars Technica says this may "go nuclear" (link)



Fri Feb 27 21:08:08 2009: 5534   TonyLawrence

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Well, that may be your opinion, but others see it differently. As I noted, Groklaw thinks Bilski applies, as does (link)

But the truth is it doesn't matter what anybody thinks: someday, somewhere some court will have to decide this. Unfortunately, courts are just people and people don't always go by logic: they are more apt to decide what they want and then rationalize a reason for their decision.

So a court that thinks software patents are wonderful might see this in a different way than one who sees them as the ugly things I think they are. I'm hoping for a court that makes it even harder for Microsoft to throw its weight around.. we'll see what we actually get.



Sat Feb 28 11:37:30 2009: 5546   anonymous

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I think "think" is a pretty strong word to apply to that Groklaw post. There is no sign in that post that the author even read the Bilski decision.

The few sentences at the end of the other link doesn't express an opinion. It asks a snarky question, but makes no attempt to answer it.

Here's what the Bilski court said about the machine leg of the test:

As to machine implementation, Applicants themselves
admit that the language of claim 1 does not
limit any process step to any specific machine or
apparatus. See Appellants' Br. at 11. As a result, issues
specific to the machine implementation part of
the test are not before us today. We leave to future
cases the elaboration of the precise contours of machine
implementation, as well as the answers to
particular questions, such as whether or when recitation
of a computer suffices to tie a process claim
to a particular machine.



Sat Mar 21 22:02:40 2009: 5794   TonyLawrence

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More and more I agree that dumpinh this junk is the right move: (link)



Sun Apr 5 16:54:12 2009: 6004   TonyLawrence

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So ultimately they "settled", though scuttlebutt says M$SOFT only got a token payment. TomTom says its intent is to remove FAT outright.

Who knows what all this really means? Certainly I don't..

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