A month ago, legal fireworks began erupting between software giant Microsoft and GPS maker TomTom, with Microsoft first filing suit against TomTom for allegedly infringing on file-system patents, and TomTom countersuing claiming Microsoft’s Streets and Trips infringed on four TomTom patents. The case was being closely watched by the Linux community: Microsoft has made no secret that it considers Linux to infringe on its intellectual property, but the TomTom suit was the first time Microsoft had ever taken those claims into a courtroom.
Now, Microsoft and TomTom have suddenly settled their patent dispute…and the agreement appears to be a runaway victory for Microsoft. According to Redmond, TomTom will pay an undisclosed sum for access to eight Microsoft patents covering car navigation and file management technologies—and in addition to cash, Microsoft also gets access to four TomTom patents included in TomTom’s countersuit. What’s more, over the next two years TomTom has agreed to remove support for long file names in FAT filesystems—techniques Microsoft claims are covered by two of its patents. This point could be critical, since the technology is also included in Linux kernels and may indicate Microsoft is considering pursuing cases related to the “FAT LFN” patents in other venues. However, TomTom maintains that the coverage for three Microsoft file system patents makes its products fully compliant under GPL 2.
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