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back to article Microsoft's TomTom patents under scrutiny

Open-source and Linux activists are not allowing the FAT patent dispute between Microsoft and TomTom to fade. Three patents held by Microsoft and the subject of the FAT litigation have been submitted for review to legal experts, to find prior art that might potentially disqualify them. The patents - 579517, 5758352 and 6256642 …

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Yes!

I'm so glad someone's actually doing this! FAT may be terrible but killing Microsoft's patent would make it more of a universal format, which in itself would make it useful. Also, anything that loosens their grip on the industry and makes it easier for others to innovate has got to be a good thing.

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Boffin

Naive

This strategy of "defending" your patent using such things as "prior art" only works outside of Texas, where ALL patent-based attacks are made, since the place is apparently full of corrupt judges who aren't interested in listening to any "technical" arguments about why patents might be invalid.

The time LucasArts was sued comes to mind. Some guy claimed to have patented the use of matrices - goddamn MATRICES - in 3D games. Citing prior art going back to the 1600s did not help. The plaintiff got away with a sum which was described to me as "equal to the maximum total profit of the entire Lucas organization over the best five year period in its history".

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Flame

Let the good times roll

Screw M$ we should be able to use these patents because there is prior art.

Screw M$ lets take everything associated with FAT out of *nix to make people realize they dont need to use their software.

Screw *tards because they have around <=.7% of the market.

Screw everyone who uses M$ products for supporting them.

Screw having to update my OS every 6 months AND HAVING TO PAY FOR IT.

I know I missed some stuff here but I think that gets the point across.

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Go

first step of several

This is a very good first step to challange Microsoft on those FAT patents.

Once sufficient information is accumulated (and Microsoft refuses to promise not to impose them again against Linux or other open source projects) it is possible to file for a declaratory judgment that the patents in question are not enforceable.

Otherwise Microsoft will just pick off one ISV after another forcing one at a time to either drop using the FAT file format or pay patent royalties. Or, even worse, come to some vague agreement like Tom Tom that Microsoft will just use to threaten everyone else.

One at a time, vendors may be venerable even if the various open source organizations agree to defend the use of the open code. Practically speaking, smaller companies can not afford to delay product development or even marketing while a few worthless patents are litigated.

Certainly Tom Tom was more concerned with the non-FAT patents. But, no doubt, Microsoft will lie and tell everyone that the FAT patents were the ones collecting those royalties.

So, yes, it is important to gather together the necessary evidence of prior use and bring a law suit against Microsoft if they do not promise to hold off.

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Anonymous Coward

Suggestions @ TomTom.com

Tom Tom should make a suggestions email address. Surprisingly they don't have one.

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When the FAT hit the SHIN

The boot in the booty, no wonder why M$ is settling, if cases were to go before the courts I'm pretty sure there would be more of that.

M$ just feed your Windows source code to a "patent checker" if you dare.

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Anonymous Coward

Linux is Above The Law

"Publicly promise that the patents asserted in TomTom that are being addressed by OIN will not be used by Microsoft for patent aggression against Linux." ---- Patent Aggression? So Linux is above the law due to its intellectually superior community eh? Torvlads Ubere Alles as I always suspected!

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@James

In your little rant you seem to have got your self confused....

You see you state, and I quote

"Screw everyone who uses M$ products for supporting them."

then you say,

"Screw having to update my OS every 6 months AND HAVING TO PAY FOR IT."

(note the words MY OS)

So either

a) you are paying to supoprt MS, therefore you hate yourself

or

b) your choosen OS is shit and you have to pay to upgrade it every six months. So therefore I recommend moving to MS products where you only pay to upgrade every few years, which you don't actually have to do.

Now go get youself a nice mug of Horlicks, put your feet up and watch Last of the Summer Wine as I feel life is getting a bit to much for you....bless

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Linux

I still don't get it - why use FAT at all?

Sure, Windows natively know FAT. But who uses the command prompt/Explorer to root aorund their SatNav? Surely all users will go via whatever management software is provided with the SatNav.

The answer would appear to be simple (esp. as these units seem to run some Linux flavour) use ext2/3/4, whack a driver in to manage the communications to/from Windows, two fingers to M$. The are some drivers kicking about just now, but I don't think they are feature complete. Can't see it taking the likes to TomTom and their pals too long to sort that one out.

Or am I just being soft in the head?

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@Naive

Did McKool Smith actually win that case ? I remember the original article on the Reg but no sign of one reporting any outcome. Link ?

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Paris Hilton

@James O 'Brien

Why not just say 'screw everyone'?

Or would that make you seem too much like a sexual predator?

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Unhappy

Time is ticking on this one

Simply because the prior art is back from the Dawn Of Computing (tm), and the bright, young students and post-grads that invented it all are now getting on a bit. If Microsoft can spin this out for long enough, nobody who remembers working on this stuff will still be alive!

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FAT-OFF BALLMER !

A frivolous and obvious patent that deserves to be thrown out of the window, a bit like a chair. Now we might get to see a decent file system being used.

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Most of them are about long file name support

The key aspects of which are

1) Storing both long and short file names in parallel in the same directory structure

2)Chopping up the LFN into standard sized chunks.

3)Storing the chunks as dummy vol. entries.

IMHO 1 & 2 should definitely exist. 2 in particular is a relatively obvious storage conserving optimisation. I think its also *the* main roadblock to defining an MS patent proof file system. However finding a prior example of hiding the LFN chunks as something else is unlikely. Unless you find another OS which had to be hacked to do LFN support as well.

Excellent idea. Let's get them into the light of day and see what shrivels up and dies.

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SD Cards?

@BigYin

I suspect TomTom uses SD cards (or a variant of) which are normally FAT formatted. For convenience of loading maps/music/etc easily it makes sense for them to want to read and write using FAT including long filenames.

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Back before DOS....

I worked on UK mainframes in the 70s and we had long file names, we even had libraries which contained the same sort of file and the directory entry pointed to a library index elsewhere on disc. When little micros came along, the alternate micro OSs were swamped out of existence by the IBM(MS)DOS not for technical reasons but solely due to their better marketing (thanks Charlie Chaplin!), however any such extensions of the Operating Systems to cater for long file names are not new technology but catch (botch in the case of the US systems) ups to implement already standard computer options. It is all done by software and so there is no valid reason for any such patent to exist.

If you want to go from A to B in town, multiple routes exist but everyone will eventually find the best route for them. This is no different and there is no way that we would countenance Tom-tom employees installing road barriers to ensure that only actual tom tom users, pedestrians included, could use that route etc..

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@Steve

So people access their SatNav SD cards (assuming such things are used) directly? I rather doubt that. Ergo I still no issue with using ext3 (or whatever), installing a driver to support that with the normal install and telling MS to fack off.

For direct USB/serial connection it's even less of a no-brainer.

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