Open source patent law panhandling

Summary:TomTom lacks the financial resources to defend itself. Stand-alone GPS systems aren't that great a business, the real potential here being GPS as a technology platform, enabling other functions. All of which means that, if the SFLC chooses to make a fight of this they have to do more than hire a lawyer. They have to come up with the cash to do this case pro bono.

The Software Freedom Law Center is moving closer to joining the defense of TomTom, having posted a want ad for a patent attorney at its blog yesterday. (Picture from Atlanta Progressive News.)

At the same time skepticism is growing over whether this is the right legal fight for open source, with Matt Asay all but accusing TomTom of high tech panhandling.

Microsoft fanboy Rob Enderle also taunts Linux on his ITBusiness Edge blog, calling it the tech equivalent of Rush Limbaugh.

"Linux has always seemed strongest when being attacked by Microsoft, and it clearly is missing that strength this year," he writes. Interest in Linux "seems to be waning" and a good court fight is thus needed to stir up the juices.

Enderle is right on one point. This argument is over navigation technology, not Linux itself. But its success could do in the auto market what DRM did in the content market, effectively lock Linux out of growth through a legal monopoly Linux cannot break.

Come to think of it Enderle is actually right on a second point as well.

TomTom lacks the financial resources to defend itself. Stand-alone GPS systems aren't that great a business, the real potential here being GPS as a technology platform, enabling other functions.

All of which means that, if the SFLC chooses to make a fight of this they have to do more than hire a lawyer. They have to come up with the cash to do this case pro bono.

Topics: Linux, Hardware, Mobility, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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