New Microsoft patent-infringement case involves Linux

Summary:Microsoft has filed a patent infringement case against a GPS-navigation system company. What makes the case interesting is its Linux connection.

Microsoft has filed a patent infringement case against a GPS-navigation system company. What makes the case interesting is its Linux connection.

MIcrosoft filed the action on February 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, as well as with the International Trade Commission, according to the company. It names TomTom NV and TomTom Inc. for infringing on Microsoft patents. According to Microsoft's statement, "We have taken this action after attempting for more than a year to engage in licensing discussions with TomTom."

On TechFlash, blogger Todd Bishop is reporting that Linux figures into Microsoft's patent case. Microsoft is suing over eight patents, "including three that relate to TomTom's implementation of the Linux kernel."

From Bishop's post:

"It's believed to be the first time Microsoft has filed a patent suit over Linux, after claiming for years that elements of the open-source operating system violate its patents. However, Microsoft says open-source software is not the intended focal point of the action. Five of the alleged patent violations relate to proprietary software."

Microsoft's statement on the case quotes Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing. Gutierrez is the Microsoft official who set off a renewed war between Microsoft and many in the open source community when he claimed a couple of yeas ago that free software and open source violated 235 of Microsoft's patents.

Microsoft provided me with the same statement they gave Bishop when I asked about the open source connection in the new infringement case. A spokesperson said:

"(O)pen source software is not the focal point of this action.  The case against TomTom, a global commercial manufacturer and seller of proprietary embedded hardware devices, involves infringement of Microsoft patents by TomTom devices that employ both proprietary and open source software code."

Focal point or not, the case should be an interesting one for anyone interested in the Microsoft saber-rattling over Linux patents....

Update: Bishop has copies of the two complaints (the one filed in Washington state and the one with the ITC). Neither complaint includes the word "Linux," but they do itemize what is in the patents upon which Microsoft claims TomTom is infringing.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Legal, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source


Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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