TomTom Becomes Linux Licensee, Countersues Microsoft

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GPS maker TomTom has found itself in the news a bit lately. Late last month Redmond software giant Microsoft filed suit against the company, claiming the company is infringing on Microsoft patents in its Linux-based GPS devices. Some open source advocates have viewed the lawsuit as Microsoft perhaps attempting a backdoor attack on Linux: three of the eight patents cited in the suit focus on TomTom’s support for FAT (file allocation table) technology in the Linux kernel, making it the first time Microsoft has included in a court filing its long-standing claims that the Linux kernel infringes on Microsoft patents. Microsoft says it is committed to working out a licensing deal, but the companies have been negotiating for over a year.

For its part, TomTom has disputed the patent infringement claim, and last week filed a countersuit against Microsoft alleging Redmond’s Streets and Trips program infringes on four TomTom patents. The countersuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Microsoft declined to comment on the suit, saying only that it remains committed to a licensing solution.

In the meantime, TomTom has just become a Linux licensee, inking a deal with the Open Invention Network. The deal gives TomTom royalty free access to patents owned by the Open Invention Network—that’s currently a portfolio of 275 patents and applications—and that TomTom can’t assert its patents against Linux. The Open Invention Network is intended to make Linux an attractive option for companies looking to use Linux in their products, as well as repackage or embed the operating system in their products.

“Linux plays an important role at TomTom as the core of all our Portable Navigation Devices,” said TomTom’s director of IP Peter Spours, in a statement. “We believe that by becoming an Open Invention Network licensee, we encourage Linux development and foster innovation in a technical community that benefits everyone.”