It looks like Microsoft finally did it. It has filed a lawsuit over alleged infringement of its US patents by Linux and open source. Today, the company filed suit against in-car, voice-activated navigation specialist TomTom NV and Tom Tom, Inc. And according to TechFlash, three of the eight patents Microsoft has contested relate …
MS is floundering.
"All these questions will play out against the backdrop of why Microsoft picked specifically on TomTom."
How much cash does TomTom have on hand, and what's their market cap & share value? I honestly don't know, but my gut feeling is that they are the largest, most visible to consumers open source outfit, with the least cash and a small (probably shrunken dramatically, in this economy) market cap ... and thus the largest consumer-visible outfit that is least capable of defending itself. Win-win for MS lawyers ... Pick on 'em when they are down.
On the other hand, aren't they a European outfit? Should prove interesting ...
Interested to find out what the patents are
I will be very interested to finally see what these patents are. If they are genuine innovations then good on them. But I will wager they will be the usual fluffy, generalised, obvious, long-used-before-the-patent-application stuff that seems to make up a large majority of modern patents, particularly in the US.
Why is anyone even remotely surprised by this?
Anyone that followed the whole SCO debacle, knew full well that SCO was supported by MS.
Fighting through a proxy is the Microsoft way.
Today they are going after Tom Tom.
If they prove that patents have been infringed by Tom Tom, then, by proxy, they've proved that Open-Source is violating their IP, too.
That will put the wind up anyone that is, or is planning on using some Linux/Open-Source software - unless they can afford the millions needed to hire an IP Lawyer...
In short, the message is clear - use Windows, or get sued into oblivion.
They just waited for the right moment
As Tom Tom seems to be in serious financial trouble they'll be willing enough to enter a settlement.
There goes the last bit of sympathy I used to have for the Redmond behemoth.
It had to happen. But in the long term will be good
This one was coming. Nobody knew when, but everybody knew that at some point Microsoft was going to try this tactic for defeating competition.
However, on the long term this will have the same benefits as the SCO case. Look, after SCO went bankrupt and lost the case in the process, nobody will even think of trying again that route.
Same will happen with TomTom. Microsoft will lose, and in the process the damage to their reputation and the amount of counter filed lawsuits, not to mention invalidating absurd patents, will make them think back going this way.
With this timing, this is against Android
Android is arriving, and it's going to wipe Microsoft out of the cellphone business. It will also kill any hopes it had for media boxes, and hurt Microsoft a lot in industrial computing (handheld terminals, SCADA systems, lab equipment, etcetera).
The forces behind are titanic. Google, China Mobile, Vodafone, Telefónica, T-Mobile, Motorola, Samsung, LG, Toshiba, Sony... Their combined worth is A LOT of money. Microsoft cannot go against all them. By picking TomTom, it has been inexpensive for Microsoft to fire a resounding salvo against everybody that means to use Linux in their products. To me it reads as:
"you might be giants with great technology, but I have plenty of tiny pebbles I can plant in your shoes to make your life miserable -- come to me, and all will be dandy".
Microsoft sees weakness
It's just a cover for a predatory attack. TomTom's loans have covenants. I guess that covenant requires their share price to be above some level. Tom Tom has always been the poster child for Linux, far outselling the competitors like the Mio Windows thing.
Tom Tom said if things get worse it MAY break it's covenants. That was a few days ago.
So Microsoft see an opportunity, attack Linux, force Tom tom to settle, not because Microsoft is right, but because TomTom needs to settle to protect itself. Then claim a right to Linux backed by the lawsuit and go on the attack.
To me this says that Microsoft does not have any technical advantage, and therefore has to fall back to lawsuits.
Are these patents valid?
If the linked article is correct, one of these patents is the "8.3" specification. Surely is an old IBM specification?????
Go the way of SCO
Let's hope Microsoft goes the way of SCO.
Microsoft have probably changed little from the early days they apparently put code in Windows to deliberately prevent other competing disk operating systems running below their window application. There have been many anti competitive legal actions againt many of Microsoft practices and this action by them is probably is just this. I think they are frightened because they could be losing their grip on the market. A grip I hope they lose.
OPEN THE FLOOD GATES!
And let the outrage flow...
I'll bet most of the patent infringements are stupid anyway, something akin to Microsoft holding the patent to show the colour red on the screen or something. Software patents - bah!
why all the panic?
Open source has been involved in lawsuits before. Anyone else remember the problems with the compression algorithm used by .GIF files? The key thing is that OSS is like a river and Microsoft is a rock. Drop a rock in a river and the water will just find another way past (it will also eventually erode the rock down to sludge).
No more to add ...
Could be a smart choice on Microsoft's part.
Ah, TomTom - a company that has Linux running on its devices, but is known for requiring the use of Windows or Mac OS to update them (I used a friend's for a while - this is the reason I didn't actually buy one for myself).
This might confuse the issue by causing disgruntled Linux users to have a "TomTom? -- fuck 'em." attitude.
It's not known how much useful support this would cost them, but I doubt it's irrelevant to Microsoft.
long time coming
Microsoft have been looking for a credible case to back up its ridiculous IP infringement claims for so long now and this crock of **** is the best they can find?
Still, win or loose doesn't matter for Microsoft because they are sending a clear message to those not using Windows for their devices 'Don't make us angry you won't like us when we are angry'.
Most of these claims have been defeated before so it is unlikely that they will be upheld this time even in the US and certain that they will not be upheld in any other jurisdiction. So perhaps the American public will loose out to big business protectionism again. The land of the free - as long as it doesn't hurt certain individuals. When are the American people going to realise their corrupt and broken business law is costing them real money as well as personal freedom because they are constantly being told what to buy and from whom.
Microsoft are asking for trouble..
I think Microsoft are wanting to keep the Open Source aspect low key for one simple reason.
As soon the Linux / Open Source community feel they are under threat from Microsofts patents, Microsoft will find it's patent portfolio under scrutiny from millions of unhappy programmers and Open Source enthusiasts looking for flaws and prior art.
Although that scrutiny will probably start with the ones relating to Linux, it's unlikely to stop there - Microsoft could well lose a significant percentage of it's patents.
I predict a balanced, informed and well argued discussion.
Either that or
Rabid, pig ignorant and stultifyingly ill informed.
Friends of Microsoft in the software community?
Lets be realistic here.
Microsoft sells most copies of its OS to PC mfgs. If no one buys a new machine they go out of business and so does MS. The makers come up with ever more powerful machines and MS ensures that you will need a more powerful machine to run it. It keeps them in line. Start talking too nice to Linux and your supply deal will have to be "Re-considered." Otherwise its everlasting love all round.
Regarding software companies.
Companies that threaten it. Destroy them or disrupt them. How are Netscape and Lotus doing these days?
Companies that supply it with products or improve its penetration. Buy out or destroy if they get uppity. Leave them alone as long as they know their place behind the curtain. The Foxpro development team and the suppliers of Defrag and Visual Basic understand this.
Actual friends, as in successful ambitious software companies who work with them but are not threatened by them?
But once they go to court it will be interesting to see what IP has been so grievously violated. The examples of USPO software patents I am aware of seemed like known state of the art. A copy of either of the books called "Fundamentals of Interactive Computer Graphics" or a look at the Xerox Alto should have throw a lot of them out.
patent wars, the empire talks crap
dun dun dun, dun der dun, dun der dun... (Death Star Motif)
the evil empire feels threatened me thinks, hmmm.
What a shame...
...that governments can't deal with playground bullies in the same way that head teachers and governors of schools can.
Can't compete on the quality of your products? Then use your vast wealth and the courts to stop your competitors from progressing the art. What a fine moral example we are being shown yet again.
Kuhn's statement is not completely accurate - patents have only recently become part of Microsoft's strategy (for anti-competitive reasons) - if there had been software patents around when Microsoft first started, then they would never haver gotten off the ground.
When will the IT industry giants stop lying to us (and themselves)? Software patents do nothing to progress the art - history has proven that. Copyright works just fine.
A patent is what it is. It's rather unfair to tun a blind eye to patent infringment of companies just because they use open source software.
Has Gavin Clarke been plucked directly from slashdot? These article reeks of a linux fanboy scent
They've pulled the trigger
The entire software industry's income now belongs to the legal profession.
It's about time
Really, I've had enough of the phony niceness towards open source. It's about time that MS vs the rest of the world moved on to phase two.
SCO was so long ago after all.
Open-source community is a bunch of whiny kids.
All your open source are belong to us
All those trusting souls collaborating with Microsoft now are just laying down the foundations for this sort of thing in the future. Microsoft have a track record on devouring their collaborators that would embarass a black widow spider. Even Homer Simpson can tell you.
TOM2 is dirt cheap
IMHO, (biased, I just bought some stock in them). Let me explain my thinking:
If people don't buy cars they will spruce up the car they have. Satnav is the best sprucer since it also saves them petrol (by plotting more efficient routes).
TomTom have the best product in GPS by far (happy customer of 2 of them).
As late as Q3 2008 they were very profitable, i.e. they know to make a profit.
Their share price is driven down over fears of a default on a loan covenant. I think this is rubbish because of the previous points.
Their revenue is FOUR TIMES their total capitalization, if they made the same profit margins they achieved in 2008 Q3, they could buy their own company with their own profits in just over a year.
I think this Microsoft attack is designed to drive their share price down enough to break their covenants, rather than a real lawsuit with chance of success. Microsoft car computer came late in the game and most likely TomTom would win any patent war (it holds a lot of US patents). and predates most of it's US rivals, so they could comfortably kill a lot of those CE devices in any war.
Ultimately Microsoft did not have the first embedded OS, or the first real time one, not the first navigation computer or in fact any firsts in that market so this is smoke and mirrors.
The timing, just after Tom Tom announce losses, confirms this to me.
Finally, Microsoft opens fire on the Westerplatte
>> Microsoft said it's turned to the courts having attempted to "engage in licensing discussions" with TomTom for "more than a year."
So why hasn't there been any mention of Microsoft's moves in the press/blogs? What is the advantage to TomTom of hiding the fact that Microsoft tries to extract a bit of protection money? One might have started looking for some prior art. Of course, they could have fallen for the old SCO trick of "we will show you but you will have to sign an NDA first".
Nov-Hell deal leads to you deserve it!
Deal with the devil and the devil comes swinging. Microsoft a company with over 10,000+ patents over its history, and a history of hitting the smaller distro companies first into patent agreement deals or worse and only 8 patents of that huge portfolio at dispute... hmm wonder which ones :-)
Does this really mean MS is anti open source?
I don't know the merits of the case so I'm not going to say Microsoft should win or lose this case but thats not the point.
The open source community seem to think that the phrase "Open Source" is a sheild making them immune to IP laws. Never mind the fact that TOMTOM inc. make loads of money from selling these devices.
Open source does not absolve people from IP laws and does not give you free reign to steal other peoples ideas.
Take a step back?
"It's a good moment for people to take a step back and re-think how friendly Microsoft is to open source."
Yeah, this will come as a great shock to everyone....
But its brave of TomTom to tell MS where to go I suppose.
I told you so...
Time to drop any Mono/Silverlight/MSFT tainted projects. Or wait until they try to assert software patents on those too. It's up to you.
Me, I use KDE as a desktop and make sure no mono* libs enter my PCs. And even a binary flash player is better than a open sourced patent tainted retarded brother of MSFT media player.
Looking at the PDF, they appear to be going after the file sytem.
If this doesn't go to caught and then get thrown out, it'll be digital camera makers next...
more proof that patents hurt fair competition
On the one hand, you get the EU and others forcing microsoft to document its APIs and Protocols to allow interoperability, and then there is the various exclusions in bits of copyright law to allow reverse engineering for interoperability purposes. all these attempts to make fair competition happen.
then on the other hand, patents blow it all away, because even if you manage to implement your own version of one of them, they slap you down with a patent on it. so no matter which way around, any form of competition has to pay them.
as such patents like this clearly harm fair competition and innovation and should be abolished.
TomTom on Windows Mobile OK then?
The title says it all.
It isn't clear from reading Microsoft's complaint that this is aimed just at TomTom's Linux-device business. It looks more like an attempt to taint the TomTom brand.
It'll be interesting to see if Microsoft can be made to clarify if this also applies to TomTom Navigator on Windows CE/Mobile devices... can El Reg chase the Microsoft PR/legal types?
In the early days TomTom was just a Windows Mobile application but rampant piracy and the move to discrete GPS devices led to the dedicated Linux-based devices. Since then TomTom has grown massively and gobbled up TeleAtlas. They also bought up a large number of patents from Horizon Navigation in 2007 that are important for portable navigation devices.
I think this is more of a cynical business move by Microsoft to cast some doubt on TomTom whilst Microsoft is pushing "Windows Embedded NavReady 2009" - I suspect getting hardware vendors to adopt Windows Mobile is proving an uphill struggle.
I suspect we'll be seeing a counter-claim from TomTom based on those patents it holds.
Just when you think they have learned their lesson, Microsoft load up the shotgun and aim it at their feet.
Wonder if the state of the economy has given the idiot lawyers the opportunity to go "Look! Free money!" without ever wondering about the consequences.
MS back to what does well
1) Distracting Manoeuvres while they observe the enemy
2) Find a weak spot, apply pressure
5) KILL!, KILL! KILL!
6) FINISH HIM!
9) If it doesn´t work goto 1) if does goto 10)
10) Fallout profit.
Paris, because she knows something the IT world doesn´t: MS is the pimp of the industry, and treat the rest of the IT landscape like the w****s.
What a monkey
"Microsoft followed up telling Forbes that Linux and open source violated 235 patents: 42 in the Linux kernel,"
Fair enough... there's nothing that MS has that doesn't have prior art though.... so they'd be really hard pushed to make any of it stick. Lets not forget a lot of "Linux" work is not done in the US and in countries that these sorts of patents aren't valid.
"Linux graphical user interfaces violated 65,"
As far as I'm aware .... there is no such thing. Oh, you mean desktop environments that run on top of some X implementation. So why not sue Sun?... Apple ship some sort of X11 these days too don't they?
"Open Office 45, various free/open e-mail programs violated another 15,"
Again, Open Office isn't "Linux". You can run openoffice on Windows. And again the people that would have infringed any patents would be Sun. That's if any of the patents could stand up in court, because again, there's a ton of prior art out there.
Some of the patents too low level?
Here are the 2 complaint PDFs:
IMO some of these patents are so low level/necessary/obvious, they shouldn't be allowed.
e.g. Patent 642 - "describes a file system that supports the byte-addressable and block-erasable nature of flash memory, while providing support for a file system offering the functionality of traditional file systems."
How else are you to run ANY OS on a flash device?
Does this mean SSD controllers that emulate HDD controllers are infringing?
If so, a lot of mileage there.
How very ...expected
These are their true colours...
The resumption of hostilities...
on their road to 'World Domination'.
Pick a (relatively) small target and await outcome, whilst fattening up the patent trolls.
'Gates' icons now need changed to Ballmer icons.
MS wants a legal precedence here...
At the moment it just has a low profile; well obscured case against a nobody (whose execs/lawyers are probably already on Vole's dole). Once Vole wins it; it will have a legal precedence to wave when it goes after bigger threats to Volish bijness.
Paris, coz you might need a navigation system - while trading private stuff with here.
Lowering the TCO
Cost of Linux license: £0
Cost of defending baseless law-suits: £10,000,000 and rising
Cost of Windows license: £49 (or less) per unit
Cost of defending baseless law-suits: £0
So, on those prices and for 200,000 units, Windows offers lower TCO. Read it and weep, freetards. Windows is cheaper! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!
***"All these questions will play out against the backdrop of why Microsoft picked specifically on TomTom."***
I would guess its because they are confident of a favourable ruling on the GPS / navigation patents and they hope they can carry the alleged Linux violations through on the back of them, giving them a precedent if and when they sue others who use embedded Linux.
Mind you, a Microsoft vs BT dust-up over the Linux based HomeHub would be fun to watch.
Since TomTom is a Dutch company, does this mean that the case will go to the Dutch court? Have good faith in our justice system, just less in the technical understanding of the judges...
Fundamental flash & removable media patents
The technology covered by patents 517 and 352 is VFAT, which is required for any device that stores files on removable media.
The technology covered by patent 642 is required for any device that stores files on internal flash memory.
So these are basic patents required for almost every portable device from every OEM. This should be fun.
@Lowering the TCO
"So, on those prices and for 200,000 units, Windows offers lower TCO. Read it and weep, freetards. Windows is cheaper! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!"
Ahh, but you are forgetting the PROFIT from a counter 'Tortuous Interference in Business' lawsuit. The SCO email for example, where it became clear that Microsoft was funding SCO's anti Linux lawsuit could form the basis.
So, say it's the same as the $700 million (?) over the Netscape thing, that would mean you'd make oodles of profit from counter suing Microsoft. Plus you get the inbuilt advantage, in that Microsoft is viewed as a serial anti-trust violator, so in any court case, they really are at an incredible disadvantage. The assumption at the back of people's minds is that they are lying.
Read it an weep MSFT shareholders, because now it will be far easier for people who suffered from SCO's lawsuit to now point to MSFT's new lawsuit and link the two, to make MSFT liable as though SCO was just a front for MSFT.
@AC re. It had to happen. But in the long term will be good
No, I think that this will reinforce the reputation that MS has.
I'm not sure who are more stupid, the fools that think up these stunts or the fools who buy into the rubbish spouted by MS about wanting to play nice with FLOSS.
As for those who actually by MS products, well, as Lincoln said "you can fool some of the people all the time..."
I've just got through reading one of the 2 PDFs and...
I have summarized the 5 infringement claims sent to the US ITC below and assigned each a novelty score to reflect how novel/obvious each of these innovations might be to any marginally competent nerd...
They are, to my mind and as you might suspect, utterly nebulous. I can only imagine the other 3 are equally lame. The Judge should kick their asses back to Redmond and void these ludicrous "patents".
US Patent 6175789 "Vehicle Computer System with Open Platform Architecture" January 16, 2001.
Violates at least claim: 1 and 16
In essence: Microsoft in 2001 invented the idea that subsystems of a product (in this case a car) should be able to talk to one another.
Novelty score: 0/10
US Patent 7054745 "Method and System For Generating Driving Directions" May 30, 2006.
Violates at least claim: 1
In essence: Microsoft in 2006 invented human friendly driving directions by...
a) Concatenating close instructions together
b) Saying less words if instructions are close together
c) Not making as many mistakes as every previous system
Novely score: 1/10
US Patent 5579517 "Common Name Space for Long and Short Filenames" November 26, 1996.
Violates at least claim: 1,2, 3, 4, 22, 26, 31, 36
In essence: Microsoft in 1996, in order to get round the short name / long name problem created by Microsoft's fat-16, "invented" with fat-32 the notion of just tacking the long ones onto the end of the directory table and sequentially numbering the clashes in the shorter namespace.
Novelty score: 0/10
US Patent 5758352 "Common Name Space for Long and Short Filenames," May 26, 1998.
Violates at least claim: 1, 12
In essence: As above.
Novelty score: 0/10
US Patent 6256642 "Method and System for File System Management Using a Flash-Erasable, Programmable, Read-only Memory" July 3, 2001
Violates at least claim: 4
In essence Microsoft in 2001 invented the idea of making raw flash memory's ABI look like normal memory's ABI by swapping blocks around behind the scenes with "compaction-threads"
Novelty score: 2/10
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 stand-still today. The solution ... is patenting as much as we can. ... A future start-up with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose. That price might be high: Established companies have an interest in excluding future competitors.
This seems fine to me
To be fair you can't blame Microsoft for protecting their own IP.
If someone copied something I'd invented and started giving it away free I'd be a bit annoyed - Microsoft are lucky enough that they have enough money to go to the courts and stop the theft.
Good luck to them I say, and maybe this will help stop future stealing from the open source shareware types.
Microsoft and the EU
It will be interesting to see if the EU decides to play even tougher on Windows due to this lawsuit.
How many more?
WIll microsoft go after industrial robot builders next?
Because my ones run a Linux kernel, with X-windows for display and a closed source program for actually running the control program and axis drives
Previously , they used to run on a windows2000 system until the builders(german btw) decided to save a shedfull of cash by using Linux instead
(and yes you can get all the source code they used/modified for X windows and the kernel.... but wont hand out the source for the rest )