back to article Microsoft FAT patent appeal upheld in Germany

A German appeal court has upheld Microsoft’s controversial patent that describes the means used to store long filenames on FAT file systems without flouting compatibility with old applications. In 2007 the German Federal Patent Tribunal alleged that patent EP0618540 was difficult to distinguish from work done on the Rock Ridge …


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  1. Cameron Colley

    Time to ship EXT2 drivers?

    Perhaps it's time that companies started shipping Windows* EXT2 drivers with their products? This would have the added advantage of allowing files bigger than 4GB (I'm thinking HD footage) to be stored on them.

    *I've no idea if Mac's can use EXT2 natively now or if there is a driver available if not.

  2. heyrick Silver badge

    Time for us to adopt a different disc format

    But which one?

  3. Reading Your E-mail

    Land...see snatch.

    Rock Ridge??

    There's a blazing saddles joke in there, but I'm not making it ;)

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Shed the FAT

    "So the German appeal court’s decision to have the patent upheld is a significant one for the software giant, because Microsoft is no longer hindered in demanding payment for its means of storing long filenames on FAT file systems."

    Fortunately, there are many free (and probably better) filing systems than FAT.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      What about BSD's FFS, or UFS, or ZFS, ...or....? Why does it have to be a "Linux" file system (yes, I know that technically EXT2 is not limited to use on Linux, but in reality, that's what it is).

      1. Cameron Colley

        @AC 26th 12:39

        Fair point -- perhaps I have my Linux blinkers on. I should really have said <any generic free file system>.

      2. Bryan Seigneur
        Big Brother


        EXT2 is just the most widely used. But any modern-featured FS that won't ever be patent-challenged will do. O wait, no such thing exists under evil software-patent law because even clean room designs are also subject to claims.

    2. I didn't do IT.

      Randolph Scott

      They would have denied the appeal for Randolph Scott!

      RAN - DOL - PH SCO - TT!!

    3. The BigYin


      Umm...maybe. Ideally it should be a format that is "best" for the media. If Windows (or whatever) does not support the file system OOTB, simply provide the drivers (or get together with other companies to write said drivers). Whether it's EXT2 (or 3, or 4...) or something else entirely I do not care.

      Linux et al can work with these OOTB.

      WIndows users are sued to having to install and then reboot every time the wind changes direction, so they won't mind.

      Macs...I dunno about Macs. Sorry. But my guess is that can read EXT2 or something like it.

      If MS want to stamp their feet over FAT; let them. Just don't use FAT! Simples.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Love to! How?!

        Practically every manufacturer using cards, uses FAT to ensure compatability, from the lowliest little SDHC fitted in a Nintendo DS game card to a top notch Nikon/Canon camera. They all use it and there is little chance of them stopping and little chance of you avoiding it, unless you never buy another SD card again!

    4. The BigYin

      A tool for a job

      For flash drives, perhaps EXT2 or something like that (less write to the media IIRC)

      For video on a hard disc, JFS?

      For backups, ZFS?

      For general use, EXT4?

      (These are just examples, I am not trying to praise one over all the others)

      Rather than "one size fits all" people need to realise that some file system are better at some things that others, while some are good "general dogs-bodies". Linux (and I guess Mac, BSD etc) can happily read many file systems, Windows is still stuck in the (proprietary) dark ages.

    5. cmaurand

      Not so sure that I'd use ext2

      The problem with ext2 is that it corrupts easily when power is lost or something similarly bad happens. I'd look for something a little simpler and a little more robust. There are lots of good filesystems out there and linux/bsd can read most of them. It wouldn't surprise me if there's a ext2/ext3 driver for bsd (and by extension for the mac since it runs bsd).

      simple is good.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Good news

    I think this could actually be quite good news. It might finally force the camer and phone makers to use a file system other than FAT; ie - one that's more robust and a little less crappy. I don't really care what it is - anything has to be better than FAT*

    * - Except maybe the ZX Spectrum microdrive format - that was rubbish!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      why not


  6. Blackadder
    Gates Horns

    far reaching consequences

    So basically MS has patented line breaks? Gee what an invention... Personally I think "inventions" that require more time writing the patent application than actually inventing should disqualify automatically.

  7. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Time to adopt UDF

    As I've posted whenever a FAT story comes up, it's time to use UDF. It works on Windows 98+, Mac OS 9+, and Linux and so will create the minimum amount of user panic; things will carry on just working.

    If you have to install new filesystem drivers before using the device then it's an instant fail.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I don't use Linux - but I'm guessing it uses an Open Source file system which is as good as, or better than, FAT / FAT32 ?

    I'm sure it would be easy to write an app to allow Windows users acccess to drives formatted in the Linux standard (whatever that it).

    1. No, I will not fix your computer

      Well sort of, but it's not that simple

      There are at least five standards of UDF (six revisions IIRC), of the MS OS's only Vista (and Vista SP3, aka Se7en) support them fully, it's not fully supported by any Macs, Linux only fully supports it if you have the right kernel.

      In reality using UDF would be not much better than ZFS or EXT3, and probably worse as it doesn't have the security and capacty features of others, to be fair it's fine for the removable media we use today (up to and including bluray), but you'd still be installing drivers to use versions that are five years old.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Possibly, possibly not

        While different operating systems support different UDF versions, all of them support 1.02 and all of them can read later versions. I haven't read anything which says that 1.02 can't work for flash devices, however if you have to run a program to update your OS's UDF support to a later version then 1.50 would probably be enough which means you would only need to update on Windows 98/Me/2000 and MacOS 9.

        And even then the new driver could be supplied in the form of an icon that you double-click on in the same UDF partition which is shown in the window that has just appeared on your desktop when you plug the device in, or if we're going to be sure about it then make it an autorun which runs just once on 98/Me/2000 machines to install the driver.

        There's really no need to pass through the FAT tollbooth these days.

        1. No, I will not fix your computer

          Look, just accept it's not that simple!

          >>Possibly, possibly not

          "Read" is not sufficient, while most OS's support some version of UDF update is required, your suggestion of having a driver update on the UDF partition is short-sighted - will you support every 32/64bit/Linux/Windows/Mac combination?, also it's not just computers, I plug a 30Gb USB from my PC to my upscaling DVD player to watch AVI's, it only supports FAT, I can plug my cameras card into it and view pictures too.

          >>There's really no need to pass through the FAT tollbooth these days.

          Yes there is (unfortunately)

    2. Quirkafleeg


      What should they disqualify?

  9. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    You do get what the problem is?

    So Microsoft does exclusively own the hard disk format that almost everybody's data is contained in. Specifically the file names - which is pretty fundamental for filesystems.

    That's what I think they said, anyway.

    So they can make it very difficult to get your data without paying money to Microsoft - if they see fit.

    Likewise with NTFS - again if they see fit.

    It's a powerful weapon against Linux - what's it good for if you have to buy a Microsoft licence anyway?

    Likewise Macintosh.

    Likewise any business computer system.

    Well - that's what patents are for.

    I suppose workarounds include Zip files - maybe - and mountable, writeable versions of optical disc filesystems (CD, DVD, etc). But it ain't the same.

    1. Cyfaill

      err, sorry to inform you

      @ Robert Carnegie,

      Almost all hard drives sold in the last 10 ish years are blank waiting to be formatted with some kind of file system. The BIOS will see it as a drive with its low level and firmware but DOS FAT is added by a system, it is not on any respectable HDD when shipped.

      Since Linux does not need FAT (or want it either) the Drive manufactures have realized that FATty disks are not going to be appreciated.

      Drives need to be formatted with any one of a number of file systems like ext4 for example.

      MS Windows, in giving the message of preparing a drive for use on one of its systems.... is formatting it (likely NTFS) or if a legacy system FAT32 or even FAT16 if it is really old.

      It is not a requirement to use FAT on any modern media. (except with Windows)

      Even a floppy will work fine with ext2 and FAT12 is really crude anyway. Solid state (flash) memory systems do usually have a FAT problem, which is very easy to fix... just reformat it with something that suites your system, if it is not going into a MS Windows path.

      Get the FAT out, its bad for your computer.

      We have had very FAT free systems for years. Nothing important *needs* it.

      1. The BigYin

        No FAT?

        Every removable drive I have bought has come formatted FAT32. Only internal drives are blank. FAT32 is seen by people as "the standard". Hopefully now they will see sense and start to use ETX2/3/4,JFS,ZFS,whatever instead.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    This is a good thing.

    It is about time these companies paid for using others inventions.

    And as for you file system swappers... be it ext or reiser or UDF or what not... you dont get out much do you! FAT is the most common because it works with just about everything going. UDF, Reiser, Ext, FFS, UFS, ZFS are all total no goes because most 'users PC's' dont understand them.... MOST users unfortunately use Windows. Why would M$ want to support ZFS or any other FS out of the box? .... now you understand why there is no built in support for all these weird and wonderful file systems. Now, you have a Windows PC, you know nothing about one end of a USB wire from the other... and you buy a camera with some oddball FS on it.... back to the shop the next day is what happens. Its FAT or your product wont sell.

  11. the spectacularly refined chap

    Not as comprehensive as it may appear...

    ...remember this is for long filenamesupport, not basic FAT. Many devices make no real use of LFNs anyway - for instance you don't need them on at all on a camera that names files in the CIMG0001.JPG form as so many do.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Feeding the trolls

      UDF is the file format used by data DVDs.

      Are you suggesting that Windows is incapable of reading DVDs?

    2. David Kelly 2

      Long File Name Extension Only

      I agree, "we don't need no stink'in long file names" on cameras & etc. Anything machine that could make productive use of long file names absolutely should not be using FAT.

    3. The BigYin

      Screw MS

      If enough companies get together and agree to support "?FS", producing open source drivers (assuming none already exist), supplying them F.o.C and generally building support; then MS can go an whistle. Their FAT-tax no longer applies.

      As for Windows not support the FS...does it matter? It can read a CD can't it? That could install the drivers.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    what's the license for?

    is the license required for reading USB sticks, or is it only reqd for writing into the FAT format?

    1. max allan

      Probably the code, not using it.

      If you're reading/writing on a PC with Windows, then it's included.

      If you create a new device that wants to write data to a filesystem in the FAT format, then you'd probably be buying a software license.

      So, if you create a camera/media player/etc. which uses internal storage you're going to want to store it in a manner that is readable by Windows PCs and hence need a license.

      For all those of you saying that to install a file system driver makes a product bad, you could probably code a driver from FOSS for UDF/ext/zfs whatever and install it with the "camera driver" software. Considering even a printer needs about 50M of "drivers" and a reboot these days, noone's going to complain if a camera does the same.

      And for the Linux/MAC/etc... world, they've probably got the "driver" already and won't need it.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge


        "If you create a new device that wants to write data to a filesystem in the FAT format, then you'd probably be buying a software license."

        As it's been repeatedly pointed out (do try and keep up), only if you really need to use LFN and cannot live with 8.3 file naming.

        "So, if you create a camera/media player/etc. which uses internal storage you're going to want to store it in a manner that is readable by Windows PCs and hence need a license."

        Again, no. Windows is perfectly happy with "pure" FAT 8.3, it's your call if you want to use and pay for the MS proprietary extensions, which is why a lot of digicams call their files something like <8 digit number>.jpg.

        The issue's never been with FAT or patents on FAT itself, it's purely the MS LFN support on FAT you need a license for.

  13. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
    Gates Horns


    I for one would like to see the CPM file system used USB, memory cards etc.

    I would also be very interesting to see that one argued in court, “your honour, the plaintiff is using technology we stole from someone else, and we errrr… em… oh hang on..., move for a recess your honour, I need to consult with my client”

  14. Eddy Ito Silver badge


    So anyone who wants to take a copy of myfilewithastupidlylongname.empeethree to use on their phone, GPS etc. needs to have a MikeySoft license. Wouldn't an easy, albeit not necessarily cheaper, solution be to make everything look like a network connection? That way the drive format doesn't matter inasmuch as it gets presented as http, ftp, samba, et al.

  15. Lars Silver badge

    Only defending the borg

    Personally I do not think a FAT patent should have any value any more, if ever..

    But this shows how Microsoft is to day only about defending the the borg instead of trying to invent something new.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    something good to come out of this...

    Hopefully this means hardware manufacturers will move to a decent file system.

    It's time FAT was buried.

    Microsoft have kind of shot themselves in the foot with this.

    If they'd instead offered to charge something like the equivalent of 5 pence per device sold they'd be raking it in for very little work and the manufacturers probably wouldn't have even blinked.

  17. Anonymous Coward


    MS is still fighting over a patent for a long-naming scheme, for a file system that won´t work beyond 2GB in size for every "partition". Bah... bury it already.

    Lets go ZFS (or whatever the name) that can be used to store 10^100^100^100 bits or whatever. Like, it could store every atom in the universe a googleplex to googleplex power times over. Even if someone could build a hdd that large, there wouldn´t be much else left in this Universe.

    Cut the FAT from you storage plans. NOW! If you are planning a drive for your camcorder PLEASE consider other option instead of this legacy crap. I have a terabyte drive today, DOS would run out of letters before even partition the whole disk.

    Or just keep using your floppies. Here, let me help you install your Windows 3.11. Here is disk #31 - #40 stacked in reverse order. Out to lunch.

    1. Hans 1 Silver badge

      pint please!

      Fat16 supports up to 4Gb partitions (NT only)

      Fat32 much, much more ... like 2 to 8 Tb.

      Please read:

      and windows 3.11 did not require more than 7 floppy disks ... disk #40, that was from the Windows 95!


    2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      RE: something good to come out of this...

      OK, try not thinking from the viewpoint of a rabid freetard and instead try thinking from the viewpoint of the average consumer. The average consumer has a Windoze PC, not a Linux box, just about zero technical knowledge and has got used to just plugging a peripheral device (such as a camera, USB key, external disk-drive, etc) into the USB port and having Windoze take care of the rest. That is why the companies that make those peripheral items will pay for the FAT licence from Microsoft, as it makes their life easier and more profitable. They will in turn add a small amount to the sale price of their peipheral to recoup that cost, and as it is usually spread over many thousands of units the customer is not aware of that added cost. Since it makes overall development costs cheaper, the peripheral will be cheaper than if the vendor wrote and supported their own version of EXTx or whatever. Far from having shot themselves int he foot, as long as M$ keep the fee low and there is no plug'n'play option that works just as well with Windoze (and with the same level of M$ developer support if your peripheral development starts getting messy), M$ are on a sure thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        Did you read my post or the article?! This is exactly what I argued, Microsoft however haven't gone for this option, they want to charge $300,000 for a dev license, rather than on a per hardware device option.

        In any case FAT is still a very outdated system that should be replaced!

        For reference I'm not a rabbid freetard, I actually pay for quite a lot of software. This is in part because I'm a developer, and a manager of a small UK software company, and appreciate the art of putting software together, and the need for businesses and individuals to make money!

  18. PT

    Don't Panic

    As someone else already pointed out, the patent only covers long file names. The FAT system itself is old enough that if it was ever patented, which I doubt, the patent is long expired. Which is fortunate, because for SD cards, thumb drives etc. the FAT format is part of the spec, so using a different file system is not an option.

    The LFN patent must only have a few years left now anyway.

  19. asdf Silver badge

    how much did M$ pay the Christian Democrats

    This is indeed a big win for M$ basically on the enemies home turf. I thought the EU was loathe to protect software patents. In addition Germany has always been very open source friendly (not to use dirty word but socialistic tendencies come much more natural for German culture than us greedy stupid screw over the other guy and so we all lose Americans). Bah has to be M$ bribed the damn Catholic right wing Bayern fake Germans to get this through.

  20. Martin Usher

    Microsoft is asking for trouble

    The Flash file drive already has intelligence in it to simulate a file system -- in other words, to make the host operating system's life easier. We stick with FAT because its cheap and dirty, not because its good, but if Microsoft makes it not cheap then we've got a whole bunch of alternatives, up to and including making the stick look like a network drive.

    The point about Microsoft deliberately not supporting alternative file systems is well made. Its a good lock in for people who run Windows -- except that these days there's less and less reason to run Windows. Its got a lock on business applications but for most users its more trouble than its worth (it hasn't improved significantly from Win2K -- it doesn't do more, its just bulkier).

  21. JeffyPooh Silver badge

    What's this with Germans and theirloveofverylongfilenames?

    See title...

  22. Shane Kent
    Thumb Down

    Wow, I cannot believe...

    that MS would hold on to a FAT patent for LFNs. I think with all the evil that google is doing and the decline that MS is so obviously in, they should have done the right thing and let FAT go. Good PR would have been great, with evil google on top of Adobe and Apple going at it. Would be good for all the so called partner companies that are taking a s#!t kicking from Apple (MP3 players, phones, and now the pads). I would imagine the same companies they are charging for LFN FAT.

    Come on Balmer, are you really that hard up for money?

  23. Trygve Henriksen

    Can we please bury those crappy 'long filenames' now?

    The first time I heard about the implementation, I had to check the calendar to see if it was the first of April.

    Before then, I thought that the way OS/2 stored extended attributes on FAT was stupid, but this?

    Suddenly EVERY D@MN FILE in the root of your drive used AT LEAST two entries in the name table, and that table is limited to 512 names.

    It broke every disk editing and file recovery tool on the market, and Windows itself couldn't handle it, so you always got all those strange filenames with ~1 in them in the registry or ini files.

    If you're going to break backwards compatibility anyway, why the H! not do it properly?

    (After all, all programs are supposed to go through the published APIs to access files, so any normal program that craps out was flawed anyway)

    Back in he days of Win3.0/3.1/WfW, there was a flag that could be set in Fileman.ini, which would allow the File manager(and supposedly a few other programs) to see 'long' filenames of up to 16.3 if they were stored on a network disk which supported long filenames.

    It's NOT the job of an application to decide what is a valid filename. That job belongs in the filesystem driver, something MS has never really understood.

    Frankly, some days I miss the ND computer with its SINTRAN OS and 32.4 namespace.

    (No user needs any longer names than that, and if they think otherwise... BZZZT )

    1. cmaurand


      Hell, I miss the days of OS/2 and HPFS (very fast) with long filenames and extended attributes. If there was anyone that understood filesystems, it was IBM. those EA's were quite something. It turned your filesystem into a searchable database. It had extents and a binary tree storage algorithm and didn't fragment much.

  24. Anonymous Coward

    One of the many reasons...

    ...that Software Patents = Wrong.

  25. C-N

    Just stop already

    Ship everything with a tiny Windows readable partition containing proper filesystem drivers. (and an autorun). No long file names needed.

    P.S. Of course I've patented this idea; and after it is in wide use, I plan to sue everybody.

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