Microsoft's prosecution of TomTom over alleged violation of patents is looking increasingly like a failure in its long-running policy of tying down Linux users through cross licensing of its IP. Computerworld has dredged up an email exchange with Microsoft's IP and licensing legal chief that explains Microsoft's got a long …
Or switch to using a filesystem other than FAT32?
Chicken and Egg
Isn't the tone of this story a little one sided.
So Microsoft are entering into these licence deals to stop these companies from distributing the Linux kernel? But hang on a mo, weren't Microsoft persuing such cases before GPL v2 came along? In which case wasn't the "Liberty or Death" clause actually introduced to try to stop distributors from entering into such deals with Microsoft, or anybody else?
Now I'm no fan of Microshaft and their tactics in fighting open source, or indeed any other competitor. However I do feel that the introduction of clause 7 was just as bad for anybody wanting to use Linux. It will in the long run be just as harmful to the development of Linux as the actions of Microsoft or any other company trying to license their IP. If the clause is enforced then potential commercial distributors will shy away from Linux and go for an alternative, and what alternative will they settle on? Windows of course.
An alternative to the view taken in the article is that the introduction of the "Liberty or Death" clause was short sighted and counter productive. It doesn't prevent Microsoft, or anybody else, from bringing these cases, so all it will do is hinder the development and uptake of Linux.
Not Microsoft's problem?
But surely, if TomTom choose to use software that is published under a licence such as GPL, that's not Microsoft's choice is it? Should they then turn around and say "ok, you've violated our IP, but since YOU'VE chosen to do that as part of YOUR business model, we're going to overlook it and let you use our IP for free?".
Whilst I'm not trying to suggest MS might not be fully aware of the implications of their actions, from a purely legal point of view I for one can't see why they should be obliged to ignore IP violation (if that is genuinely what has occurred here) simply because the other party *chose* to use Linux.
One aspect missed in the article
Or at least that needs to be more explicitly stated: If they were to cross-license and not be allowed to distribute their modifications in source form, they wouldn't be allowed to use Linux in their devices since GPLv2 requires that any source modifications be made available to end users should they request it. It's not just a case of them not being allowed to release code back into the ecosystem, since a ban on that would prevent them from modifying and distributing any GPLv2 software.
""It isn't a case of cross-license and everything is ok. If TomTom 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*."
In other words, Microsoft is eroding Linux and open source and slowing their development. "
Sounds like it's GPL not MS that is at fault here. It is the GPL agreement that is allowing any part of the code from re-entering the community. I know it's not politically correct to say, but let's call a spade a spade.
Hey, I hate M$ as much as the next guy but come on. Tom Tom is using an M$ patent that they have not licensed. What does this have to do with open source or linux?
And since when was Tom Tom distributing linux anyway? If they didn't want to use a proprietary filesystem, they should have used a non-proprietary filesystem.
There are no need for FAT on those devices...
They are trying to force... but will probably fail: TomTom can just switch to any of the free filesystems supporting LFN and install a free driver under Windows.
"Make no mistake, this is intended to force TomTom to violate the GPL"
Indeed. Patents on software are all about lobbying to get special permissions to infringe copyright, to force others to infringe copyright, and to threaten others whose copyright is being infringed and who dare to complain about it, all to uphold some vague and unjustifiable "intellectual property" monopoly.
So you have the functioning rules governing the distribution of specific, concrete works being overridden by an instrument of monopoly and the mere suggestion that others are on the patent holder's turf because a note which reads "we thought of that kind of thing" was stamped by the patent office and a fee collected.
Microsoft: the Sheriff of Nottingham of computing.
Bilski, GPL v2 or v3 and patents
In the US, the threat of software patents was crushed in re Bilski: http://www.fsf.org/news/esp-bilski
GPL V3 was written with software patents in mind. The Linux kernel is mostly licensed GPL V2, which has a clause that anticipated disasters like software patents, but was not explicitly designed for them. Ask your lawyers for opinions - they probably will not all agree with each other.
Assuming GPL V2 is strong enough to deal will patents, it does not prevent returning modified source code to the community. It prevents binary distribution of a kernel that includes material covered by patents that are not licensed for use by everyone.
If somehow the FAT patent is found to be valid TomTom must choose between buying a license for FAT that applies to everyone, removing FAT from any kernel they distribute or stop distributing Linux in their devices.
In reality, this is just nuisance litigation, and it is not well tollerated outside Texas. The fact that other have cross-licensed only indicates that they decided that was easier than disputing the validity of patenting FAT. It does not mean that any of Microsoft's patents are actually enforcible.
3 letters - I B M
IBM lost lawsuits back in the 60s to stop plug compatible peripheral makers.
The law decided you can't block someone from making a clean room implementation.
Microsoft - remember you only have a business because somebody did this to the IBM bios.
What Microsoft are trying to do is to say, anyone can legally copy our plugs - but we have a patent on putting 5 pins at the top and 4 pins on the bottom of a 9Pin D.
If this passes then I patent putting an upper case 'M' in front of a lower case 'a' when spelling Martin.
So doesn't this open the door to someone offering either a service that converts FAT flash cards/devices into ext? Sure, some devices will fail because their own firmware is FAT-dependent, but won't some do just swell?
I'm Shocked to Discover that There Is Gambling Going on in This Establishment
Your winnings sir....
More evil than Satan himself
Maybe Google ought to let Ballmer replace Billy G. as the more evil than Satan himself top knot.
Reg ol buddy, we need an evil Ballmer icon, unless you know something that we don't.
I suppose we could use evil Stevie as he kind of looks like Ballmer without the monkey dance or the sweaty pits.
I think it's clear that Microsoft would prefer to be as difficult to Linux and companies using Linux in commercial products as possible. If this results in TomTom not being able to use Linux, and needing to switch to some Microsoft embedded OS, this would presumably be fine by Microsoft. Linux would still be available as freeware, just not from people like TomTom. (Or TomTom could avoid using FAT if this is the only issue).
I've also not looked at any of the patents and have no comments on the merits of this case at all.
So Jeremy Allison is correct that Microsoft may be trying to put TomTom in a catch-22 situation ("can't distribute without violating the patent, and GPL forbids distribution under license"). But this doesn't mean that Microsoft or anyone else's patents don't apply to free software.
There is a real question here with three possible outcomes:
1. You may think all software patents should be forbidden. No doubt many patented items are obvious, but there are some valid non-obvious things that have been patented (the old Unix setuid invention, for example). Possibly also codecs. It's also not obvious why a hardware patent should not apply to someone's product just because they implemented the codec in software.
2. You may say that the patent law should say "free software should get an exemption from patent law". You'd need to change the law in this case though, and it's not obvious this would be justified, other than because it's not easy for Linux and the current GPL to deal with patents.
3. Or (the current situation) is that one day there is going to be some case where some free software is going to violate a strong patent, and the free software folks will need to find a way to deal with this.
Right now it seems many of the people advocating in favor or option 1 (no SW patents) are really doing so because of the reasons in (2), not necessarily (1).
Leopard and spots.
It is indeed surprising that Microshaft's secret dealings have not been leaked before.
I, for one, do not like Microshaft's duplicity and double dealing and do not want to be 'owned' by them. Neither do I want to live in a constant state of suspicion, thinking or fearing the worst of people, all the time. Unfortunately .........
Separately, we are reading that the EU have decided that they can relax their supervision of said Microshaft when, without this belated revelation, they still seem to be using (abusing) their dominant monopoly to extend dependence on their products.
Correct me if I'm wrong, if this latest revelation is true, then Microshaft may have deal a really damaging blow to the GPL, with the collusion of some significant Linux commercial companies who now appear to have sold out. .
Tom Tom are not well placed financially to defend this action. Notwithstanding that they are not a community player, they are going to need some considerable assistance if they are not going to cave in. Groklaw to the rescue!
By the way, where are Red Hat placed following their recently reported secret deal.
I've said it before, in many contexts, and I'll say it again. I would like to leave a decent world to my children and grand children. Without being too pessimistic, that seems to be rather optimistic.
PS It looks as thought this particular revision to the GPL, section seven of GPLv2, is potentially an own goal.
I maybe missing something here
But why not shun FAT altogether and use an open source file system?
Can someone please enlighten me as to why switching to an open source file system is a problem?
The open source community should not be incorporating MS patented tech in their solutions anyway. MS are, well we all know what they are and they should be shunned/bypassed/outcoded at every opportunity by the open source community.
Microsoft did not get to the position they are in by altruistic practice. Quite the opposite.
A leopard never changes its spots
It seems to me that once again Redmond seems to speak with a 'forked' tongue. I hope the reaction against this is similar to the recent SCO case.
Excuse me for being dumb, but why not just stop using FAT32 and use ext3 (or one of the other file systems) - TomTom could include a driver for the chosen FS as part of their 'Home' software package, or even include it on a separate drive built into the TomTom itself.
Paris - 'cause it seems soo simple, yet probably isn't!
Mac long filename support
Presumably patent 5579517
They should look at the Mac circa 1984, the Mac handled long file names by actually holding only a short filename. The long filenames you saw (255 characters) were actually stored separately and the shorter filenames used to access the file (32 characters from my memory).
"Yes, other companies have signed FAT patent licenses, both in the context of patent cross licensing agreements and other licensing arrangements."
i.e. nobody has specifically licensed that patent and even if they had, herd mentality is no excuse for agreeing to a patent without a 'novel' invention in it, which was filed 5 years after it was first proposed in printed articles and whose intention is to suppress competition and they were not the inventor of this technique.
I tell you, it's very simple. Microsoft saw that Tom Tom had a bad quarter, they wrote down their Tele Atlas buy, they need to trim some staff to bring their profits back. Tom Tom announced that they may breach their lending covenants, which typically would include a clause saying 'extra capital needed if share price falls below X'.
Tomtoms share price is down because people downgrade motor manufacturers (forgetting that aftersales, add-ons, spare parts and repairs of cars go UP not DOWN when new car sales go down because people try to get more out of their existing cars).
Tomtom announce the quarter and Microsoft is ready to attack, in the hope of further driving the price down. Microsofts attack was 3 days after the bad figures from Tom Tom.
But it's a bullshit claim.
So essentially MS is moaning about the usage of FAT in TomTom's devices. Don't know what the compelling reason was to use an antiquated file system with seriously restrictive 'options' in the first place, but suspect it was accessibility for windows users to data on TomTom devices.
Does this mean that if TomTom starts to use ext2/ext3 file systems, then makes sure that a windows ext2/ext3 driver is supplied with their software so windows users can actually access data on TomTom devices from their windows PC, the problem will essentially go away?
Well maturity and commercial savvy prevails?
It looks as if TomTom has to make a commitment?
why not just use Ext2/3/4, ReiserFS, JFS, etc, etc, etc instead?
I fail to understand how TomTom are in a two way either/or situation here - there are clearly three choices: switch to 100% MS, run into GPL problems or the third way, switch to 0% MS-licensed technology. If Microsoft are trying to blackmail them as the article suggests, TomTom should quite clearly explain to Microsoft exactly where they can shove their big FAT disks and tell them to Foxtrox Oscar.
There's no reason why TomTom can't run their sat-nav's internal storage on a Linux file system and the same goes for SD storage cards - format them with a non-MS file system and provide Windows users with a driver to interface with it rather than relying on mass storage device. It'll be a bit of a pain for a small amount of users who like to tweak their kit but most wouldn't ever notice that their TomTom was using a different driver.
Who's the good guy here?
I'm definitely not a fan of software patents, but I hate intrusive licenses too. Maybe TomTom should just sell the devices blank and arrange for the frimware to mysteriously appear on P2P networks.
Patents, Clause 7, and alternatives to FAT
Patents were created to increase the rate of technical progress by providing incentives for inventors to describe there inventions to others. Modern patents can only be read by patent lawyers - partly because they are written in patent jargon - but mostly because of the damages for willful infringement. If an inventor reads a patent (fails to understand it) and infringes it, she is liable triple the damages she would have to pay for infringing without reading it.
The world would be a better place if the entire patent system was abandonned. Patents on CODECs are particularly nasty. Many CODECs have features chosen to infringe as many patents as possible - even at the expense of making the CODEC less efficient. The purpose of this is to create a cartel of companies who have cross licensed that can prevent any new player from entering the business.
For all those newbies thinking clause 7 is an own goal, it was chosen explicitly to prevent a problem. Some people distribute software under variants of the BSD license. These people often choose that license because it gives them evidence that the educational grant (tax payer's) money they received is being turned into software that has commercial value (tax revenue). Good for them, but the rest of us do not have that revenue stream.
Programmers pick GPL so that their software cannot suffer the familiar embrace, extend, extinguish cycle. BSD software can be incorporated into closed source products. Extensions can be added so that file formats and network protocols become incompatible. Victims of the closed source software are then locked in because they cannot move their data back to competitive software products. The GPL requires Microsoft to either make their own complete implementation, or to make the source code for extensions available to all.
The fact that Microsoft cannot get a free ride from GPL software drives them batty. Hence the old GPL is unamerican/unconstitution/comunist/... rants. The new plan is to make loud threats with unenforcible patents in the hope of getting people to switch from GPL to BSD licenses (SCO version 2?). No-one with a clue takes them seriously.
Alternatives to FAT:
The only reason why TomTom, digital cameras and so forth used FAT was to make life easier for Microsoft's users. Some kind person has written an ext2 filesystem driver for Windows (http://www.fs-driver.org/) so Windows users will not be left completely in the cold. If necessary, Linux devices can pretend to include a CDROM and CD containing Ext2fs.sys or a webserver, so Microsoft users can install Ext2fs.sys from a Linux device before Ext2fs.sys is installed.
Then to be fair everyone anywhere who makes flash/ssd devices and sells them preintalled with FAT/LFN would have to pay MS something - or would you be happy to see every one of these devices come unformatted?
OH! And then they'd charge TomTom for some pathetic patent they have on 'how computers might possibly talk to each other for the first time in decades now that MS has patented the Bleeding Obvious again"
First and foremost, this will only affect TomTom in the US. The only other country in the world that supports software patents is Australia.
Software patents will ultimately destroy Microsoft, or indeed any other company that pursues them. It will also cripple the software market for that country, as no-one will in fact be able to innovate new ideas, as they will infringe on some patent or other.
Also, Microsoft fanbois and shills, in their utter ignorance, equate "Software Patents" and "Intellectual Property" as the same thing. IT IS NOT .
Microsoft muddied up these waters by using the terms "software patents" and IP interchangeably in statements. When they were talking about patents, they dropped in IP, when they were talking about IP, they dropped in patents. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING.
All software is protected by copyright, yes, even open source. This is the protection for intellectual property, it needs nothing more.
I can buy a patent for putting a question mark at the end of a question.
I cannot buy a patent for inventing the question mark.
If I invent the question mark I can claim copyright on it.
Even if I invent the question mark, and people recognise I invented it, I cannot claim patent on using it, if someone got there and bought the patent before me.
Like I said, muddying all this up only causes confusoin, and also will tie up ALL, (not just open source), software development in the future in the US, and, in effect, the US will be left behind when the rest of the world marches on, with their own FREE and unencumbered software.
Big FAT patent ....
How secure is MS's patent in this respect anyway?
I can't for the life of me remember what it's called but there is a principle in IP law that states that you can't enforce a patent that is designed to fit a product (like you can't enforce the notion of a jacket).
This was used against Nokia when it tried to protect it's patent on snap-on covers.
Surely if the codebase for FAT support doesn't come from Microsoft, then it is merely made to fit an MS product and the patent isn't enforceable.
Or am I missing something?
To those questioning the need to support FAT file systems: Since most memory stick/ thumb drives use FAT as far as I know, doesnt this also attack desktop Linux systems?
BTW I would have thought it should be easy to support ext3 or whatever on windows, just insert an auto run exe file like they do on USB 3G dongles, and that capability is added (I've tried it as a sort of semi security for USB drives)
I'd rather expected better from Allison
All GPL restrictions are on a per-compiled code segment. All the FAT drivers are kernel modules, which can be discretely compiled. With correct use of initramfs, or even initrd it's never necessary to compile drivers directly into the kernel unless it's convenient. So all this burble about restricting code publishing is, in my opinion, absolute rubbish. They, or any other compay already operating under such deals, won't be able to publish changes only to code covered by the agreement, which is a barely noticeable amount and what MS've admitted to contesting so far has all been shown to be legacy, static, modular code. Nothing to need any changes there, so nothing to publish anyway. As for actually using FAT ... well that's already been well covered. Since all their updating is done via USB anyway, it's totally unnecessary ... but the fact that they *have* done it left them vulnerable to the case. Muppets. It's not as if Microsoft hadn't been attacking the camera manufacturers over FAT for long enough to work out what would happen eventually. Join the queue of licensees or fight; the same choice everyone else has had.
The answer to "Why not use ext2/3" etc...
Simplicity. FAT can be read by Windows, Linux, OS X and so on without any special driver. You could plug your TomTom into any PC and it'll be picked up and accessible without the need for installing a driver.
Microsoft makes it hard to install alternative file systems in Windows. Linux makes it easy. The general public are dumb and expect things from their computers - things like speed, stability and ease of use; but they are very selective as to what could be deemed simple. Putting a CD in your computer and following the onscreen instructions to install your printer is considered simple by many, but the thought of installing a driver for external drive (or GPS device) suddenly sounds complicated. Silly really, but generally speaking you don't go lumping your printer around, randomly plugging it into other peoples computers.
The solution would be to develop an ext2/3 driver for Windows and do what Huawei have done with their 3G USB dongles - emulate a CD drive so that the driver can be installed when the device is first plugged in. Still, the whole issue of integrating the driver into Windows would need to be addressed, but at least us Linux users wouldn't have to worry!
Why are we all still using FAT/VFAT? UDF was designed for just this sort of thing, being read/writable everywhere (or it should be, although my OS doesn't have newfs_udf yet - come on, guys, NetBSD has it), having the additional advantage of being an open standard. I think what confused everyone was the OSTA punted it as a replacement for ISO9660 rather than a good general purpose filesystem ideal for most high-capacity removable media.
This isn't just down to Microsoft...
Front the article:
"...In other words, Microsoft is eroding Linux and open source and slowing their development..."
'GPLv2 is a stupidly naive and ill thought out millstone around the necks of people living in the real world an needs to be scrapped'
ext3 and UDF not the answer
I hate FAT with a passion but ext2/3 or UDF aren't the answer.
I'm running ext2/3 drivers for WinXP and the best I can say is it works. Its slow, unpredictable (XP can't seem to workout how much free space is really available) and Linux needs to fsck it every time - its not fun and not ready for ordinary users and probably not going to get better till Microsoft improve their support for installable drivers. This isn't immature code, its the official source, the problem is the interface to Windows.
And UDF as a file format? On embedded devices with bugger all RAM for the file table let alone buffering? Total non-starter.
Tomtom is not free software.
"2. You may say that the patent law should say "free software should get an exemption from patent law". You'd need to change the law in this case though, and it's not obvious this would be justified, other than because it's not easy for Linux and the current GPL to deal with patents."
Tomtom do not make free software, they use free software to sell their devices and services. Therefore they should not be exempt from anything and should pay a license for FAT. M$ may be taking advantage of their poor market position, but then Tomtom chose to use FAT even though the patent issue has been around for years.
Tomtom uses FAT becasue the majority of their customers are Windows users, and the majority of the Tomtom devices still use a conection to a WIndows PC to download map updates and upgrades. The majority of those users are roadwarrior types using their Tomoms for business trips, ie for commercial reasons. I don't see Tomtom giving their devices or IP away for free, so why do people expect M$ to? Tomtom need to think of an alternative that still allows simplicity for their Windows users, or pay to use FAT. Seems pretty open and shut to me.
hinder the development and uptake of Linux
"So Microsoft are entering into these licence deals to stop these companies from distributing the Linux kernel? But hang on a mo, weren't Microsoft persuing such cases before GPL v2 came along", Gareth Jones
They have made claims in the press the Linux violates their patents but I can't recall them actually going in to court on it before. What specific MS v GPL cases are you referring to. And in this case they don't specifically state which Linux kernel or what third party code violates the patents.
"I do feel that the introduction of clause 7 was just as bad for anybody wanting to use Linux .. It doesn't prevent Microsoft, or anybody else, from bringing these cases", Gareth Jones
GPLv3 clause 7 says that no additional restrictions can be imposed on the recipients’ and that any other "further restrictions” may be removed. And the case doesn't apply here as Tom Tom released additional drivers under the GPL 2. Cases like this being of the kind GPL 3 was designed to address.
Not Microsoft's problem?
"I for one can't see why they should be obliged to ignore IP violation (if that is genuinely what has occurred here) simply because the other party *chose* to use Linux", anonymous coward
Tom Tom uses third party and GPL software in its products. Neither of which are owned by Microsoft. Therefore it owes nothing, nada, zilch to Redmond ..
Hey, I hate M$ as much as the next guy but come on.", Anonymous Coward
I don't understand how someone can hate a company. It's just a device for converting base matter into shiny objects .. :)
"Tom Tom is using an M$ patent that they have not licensed. What does this have to do with open source or linux?", Anonymous Coward
Tom Tom isn't using a M$ patent, Tom Tom is using third party and GPL software. The real question is what does an old long-file-names-for-fat patent got to do with Open Source. And since neither Tom Tom, the third party company or the Linux kernel team would have ever read this M$ patent, what has Microsoft got to do with Open Source.
"And since when was Tom Tom distributing linux anyway? If they didn't want to use a proprietary filesystem, they should have used a non-proprietary filesystem", Anonymous Coward
They used a mixed Linux kernel third party solution. Redmond is appariently upset that peopel are selling GPS devices without paying them for the 'innovation'.
MS FAT patents invalid in Europe
And with the number of much older prior art examples now surfacing, it looks like they are invalid in the US too, as they probably were in the first place. Looks like a new anti-trust case on the way - at least in Europe where their tie-in, competition stifling agreements will be very illegal.
All GPL restrictions are on a per-compiled code segment ?
" All GPL restrictions are on a per-compiled code segment", Matthew Joyce
I'm sorry but could you elaborate further on where n the GPL text it addresses restrictions on 'a per-compiled code segment', or could you tell what that even means.
"all this burble about restricting code publishing is, in my opinion, absolute rubbish. They, or any other compay already operating under such deals, won't be able to publish changes only to code covered by the agreement", Matthew Joyce
An agreement to sell devices that utilize GPL code without distributing the related source code is a violation of the GPL.
I may be too old but I remember the FAT file system being around before Microsoft. The underlying question is whether Microsoft should have been granted the patent in the first place.
@Big FAT patent ....
Precisely - it's an attempt to get around the fact that you cannot copyright a fileformat. So they patent the implementation of the format.
What would be interesting is if you could claim that UAC in Vista was preventing a user installing an alternative FS river - then you might have some interesting monopoly infringement.
skip LFN ?
8.3 file names can be good enough for the internal files of a navigation device, and the patent for the basics of the FAT file system should have expired long ago...
Re: Chicken and Egg
"So Microsoft are entering into these licence deals to stop these companies from distributing the Linux kernel? But hang on a mo, weren't Microsoft persuing such cases before GPL v2 came along? In which case wasn't the "Liberty or Death" clause actually introduced to try to stop distributors from entering into such deals with Microsoft, or anybody else?"
The GPLv2 dates back to 1991, and I don't think Microsoft was quite so interested in coercing others into patent pacts before then. The GPLv3 does attempt to strengthen the protection against the injustices of patents due to the Microsoft/Novell deal which offered patent indemnification to the recipients of GPLv2-licensed code.
"An alternative to the view taken in the article is that the introduction of the "Liberty or Death" clause was short sighted and counter productive. It doesn't prevent Microsoft, or anybody else, from bringing these cases, so all it will do is hinder the development and uptake of Linux."
But the FSF don't care about popularity: it's about the freedom of the end-user. Obsessing about being the most popular doesn't come into it - otherwise, everything would be permissively licensed or released into the public domain (where possible).
Re: GPL Fault?
"Sounds like it's GPL not MS that is at fault here. It is the GPL agreement that is allowing any part of the code from re-entering the community. I know it's not politically correct to say, but let's call a spade a spade."
Here's an explanation as to why you have something like section 7 of the GPLv2. Let's say you're distributing code under the GPL and a patent aggressor informs you that their "intellectual property" is being infringed by that code. Let's say you cave in to their demands and buy a patent licence and keep distributing that code. Now consider the position of the recipients of the code: can they distribute the software or even use it without a patent licence? What about the people who obtain the code further down the chain?
If Microsoft had their way, they'd be able to divide the recipients of your code into two camps: those authorised by Microsoft to use the code, and those who haven't paid their tax to Microsoft and who are not allowed to use the code. Clearly, this undermines the licence governing the distribution of the code under the rules of copyright, effectively letting Microsoft veto large tracts of that licence.
So, no: it's not the GPL's fault in this case, because if there was no section 7 then the only "re-entering the community" possible for the code would be via the orifice defined by Microsoft.
Again, Microsoft are just looking for new rules which let them off playing by the existing, functioning rules defined by copyright.
The idea that this action is going to stop TomTom from using Linux is as silly as suggesting that this is Microshaft's intention. TomTom need not enter into a licensing deal with MS even if they loose the case. They can simply switch to another FS in future and pay Microshaft compensation for the devices sold so far.
As such they will not violate GPL. I suspect that rather than being an action intended to damage Linux this is more likely to be a revenue raising exercise, after all MS have been hit by the recession and need new revenue streams. TomTom have been using their file system for some time now, how much money would MS make if TomTom ended up paying just a few dollars per device sold so far?
IMHO the system for such actions needs to be changed. Their needs to be a time limit to such actions being brought. If the plaintiff does not begin their action within, say, 12 months of the device or software going on sale then they should forfeit any rights to licensing or compensation for the IP used. MS could have brought this action years ago, but probably decided it wasn't worth it going after such a small company. TomTom are now much bigger than they were and MS revenues are down, MS have probably been going through old paperwork and thought "That one could make us quite a bit of money now." I doubt they are really after a licensing deal, just a few million in compensation.
How secure is MS's patent in this respect anyway?
"How secure is MS's patent in this respect anyway?"
Microsoft could spend millions of dollars per day forever for lawyers; tying up things in courts for years makes any patent pretty "secure", no matter its actual legitimacy. Look how long SCO kept things going with a fraction of the legal resources.
Depends on how they doe the License
If they licsence FAT for use on there hardware, then there binding the IP to there hardware legaly and not impossing it to there software. now if they liscence the IP to be used in there software - THEN they fall foul of there GPL, otherwise if they do open source software thats for all effect open, then there good. But Liscensing any IP thats proprietary to be used in that software instead of tieing it to the hardware will make then open to Microsoft abuse.
Now what is funny is all this is realy down to the camera manufacturers etc who were lazy and just thought FAT was as good as open source, Microsoft let them build there houses befroe they pointed out the flaw and only then after they had built many houses. Why point out a flaw early on when you get nothing from it when you can be lazy and point it out later and make money from it. Now its that type of situation that realy does point at evil IP trolling or are they just lazy in there RnD from the aspect that they never checked existing patents out they were using.
What I find realy crazy is that alot of companies tend to go for the one shoe fits all approach and with FAT your very limited at the filename level - hardly the direction for a multi-language one shoe fits all stance companies like to adopt for savings in costs now is it.
BTW this has nothing at all to do with Microsoft trying to block Linux in any way, its more case of common sence, or lack of. Besides technicaly its the tighness and well thought out GPL 2 thats casing the issue here, but thats what you get when you think things thru properly as without that clause they would after all be opening up people to creating a market for some patent troll to cash in on later at your expense, just like microsoft is doing now. So GPL 2 actualy prevents this kind of mess in the first place, shame it wasn;t around when camera companies started embracing digital media along with the likes of mp3 players.
Excuse me? I thought Microsoft filed a lawsuit. They are not in the legal position to prosecute anyone. This is a civil action not a criminal one. Or was "prosecute" a more dramatic term to use in spite of its obvious inaccuracy?
Unconvinced by the analysis
If Microsoft's patents are valid, *no-one* can legally distribute Linux, whether Tom-Tom cross-licenses them or not. If the patents aren't valid, then the cross-licence is based on a falsehood, and probably unenforcable. It depends on the exact terms of the cross-licence, but it's not clear that Tom-Tom's position is different from anyone else's.