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Is Microsoft Testing the Waters for Future Suits Against Linux?
Posted 27 February 2009 - 09:05 AM
Could this be their way of testing the legal waters and building up to a case against a number of Linux distros?
Microsoft suit over FAT patents could open OSS Pandora's Box
Microsoft has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against TomTom alleging that the device maker's products, including some that are Linux-based, infringe on patents related to Microsoft's FAT32 filesystem. This marks the first time that Microsoft has enforced its FAT patents against the Linux platform, a move that some free software advocates have long feared could be disastrous.
Posted 27 February 2009 - 10:03 AM
Posted 06 March 2009 - 12:05 AM
[MS] claim that this lawsuit has no relation whatsoever to Linux, and they're only targeting TomTom's specific implementation of Linux. I have actually reviewed the TomTom kernel sources a number of times during the last couple of years as part of gpl-compliance reviews. I can tell you, there is nothing "TomTom specific" in their FAT FS code. It is the plain fat/msdos/vfat file system like in every kernel.org kernel.
What people are missing about this is the either/or choice that Microsoft is giving Tom Tom.
It isn't a case of cross-license and everything is ok. If Tom Tom 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*.
Microsoft has been going around and doing these patent cross licensing deals with companies under NDA's so they never come to light for *years*.
That was the whole point of the Novell deal - Microsoft lawyers finally thought they'd found a way to *publicly* do these cross licensing deals and get around the GPLv2, but the GPLv3 put paid to that.
Tom Tom are the first company to publicly refuse to engage in this ugly little protection racket, and so they got sued. Had Tom Tom silently agreed to violate the GPL, as so many others have, then we'd only hear about a vague "patent cross licensing deal" just like the ones Microsoft announces with other companies.
Make no mistake, this is intended to force Tom Tom to violate the GPL, or change to Microsoft embedded software.
So it turns out that the TomTom lawsuit goes to the heart of Microsoft's attacks on Linux, and its effort to stop people using it in embedded systems – an increasingly popular option, and one, therefore, that is increasingly problematic for Microsoft.