Open source file-system vendor signs patent deal with Microsoft

Open source file-system vendor signs patent deal with Microsoft

Summary: On August 26, Tuxera Ltd anounced it has signed an intellectual-property (IP) licensing agreement with Microsoft; joined Microsoft's exFAT driver-licensing program; and joined the Microsoft Interop Vendor Alliance. Tuxera, based in Helsinki, Finland, was founded by the NTFS-3G open-source project.

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After a lull where few new open-source vendors were signing patent-protection deals with Microsoft, the pace has begun to pick up again.

On August 26, Tuxera Ltd anounced it has signed an intellectual-property (IP) licensing agreement with Microsoft; joined Microsoft's exFAT driver-licensing program; and joined the Microsoft Interop Vendor Alliance. Tuxera, based in Helsinki, Finland, was founded by the NTFS-3G open-source project.

As a result of the deal, Tuxera is claiming to be the first independent software vendors to offer exFAT drivers. From Tuxera's press release:

"Tuxera has now access to the exFAT specifications, Microsoft’s source code implementation of exFAT, and testing and verification tools. Tuxera exFAT for Embedded Sytems will be first available for Linux."

Tuxera CEO Mikko Valimaki added that Tuxera "cannot sell end-user proprietary drivers (but we have been talking about that; we can at the moment only sell exFAT on Linux to OEMs."

exFAT, or EXtended File Allocation Table, is an enhanced version of the FAT file system from Microsoft that uses less overhead than the NTFS. It extends the maximum file size of 4GB in FAT32 to virtually unlimited. exFAT is part of part of Windows CE and Windows client.

If any money changed hands as part of the latest patent deal, neither Tuxera nor Microsoft is talking about those details. (I asked; Välimäki said that information is confidential.) But according to an August 6 post on the Tuxera blog, the pair signed their agreement after only three days of physical negotiations. (Plus a year of early preparations....)

NAS and router vendor Buffalo signed a patent-protection deal with Microsoft in July.  TomTom and Microsoft signed an IP licensing agreement (after a suit and countersuit between the two) in March.

Topics: Microsoft, Legal, Linux, Networking, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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14 comments
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  • Open source file-system vendor signs patent deal with Microsoft

    All these patent deals that linux vendors are signing with Microsoft, there must be something that Microsoft has going for it. Poor TomTom, wasn't smart enough to do this and keep themselves out of trouble.
    Loverock Davidson
  • RE: Open source file-system vendor signs patent deal with Microsoft

    Another one bites the dust! M$ can't innovate, so they have to buy or steal everything they market.
    1djk1
    • Hmmmm....

      If Microsoft is the one who can't innovate, then why are companies licensing their technology? Seems to me, an innovative company would INNOVATE and not have to license another company's technology? No?
      mgp3
  • Microsoft can never innovate...

    How poor can you go...? *sigh*

    Had there been a patent reform already!? :(
    Grayson Peddie
  • Actually

    The innovation is really needed at the USPTO.
    drf999
  • This is bad

    Software patents are bad. They only introduce restrictions of software on its consumers. Unfortunately, this company signed a deal with Microsoft and is probably paying royalties to Microsoft. This is not the way to go, when introducing a piece of software in Linux. Hopefully others will go the other way and find a replacement for exfat.

    <a href="http://members.apex-internet.com/sa/windowslinux">http://members.apex-internet.com/sa/windowslinux</a>
    Chris_Clay
    • I don't get it

      If the code is out there, you can grab it under GPL and use it in Linux.
      According to GPL, the patent protection extends to everyone using it, not just a certain developer.
      Linux Geek
      • I don't, either

        Even the ntfs-3g.org website itself says the following:

        [b]What about the NTFS patents?[/b]
        [i] No NTFS patent is known in any country.[/i]


        http://www.ntfs-3g.org/support.html#questions
        So did Microsoft disclose to Tuxera that there are a patent or two? Or are they paying Tuxera to help them document their own filesystem, like they hired some Samba people to help document their network filesystem?

        Unfortunately, the terms of the deal are secret.
        NetArch.
        • Tuxera didn't license NTFS, they licensed exFAT. nt

          nt
          wolf_z
      • Actually, you have it backward

        The GPL states if you can't grant all rights to the software (including patent rights) you can't release it under the GPL.
        wolf_z
      • What makes you think this is GPL software?

        There is lots of software including drivers running on Linux that are NOT GPL software. Since kernel drivers must be GPL compatible, many of these new drivers work via something known as "fuse" which bypasses these restrictions. Any company is free to make whatever arrangements they choose in order to introduce new software to Linux as long as they follow the rules. This exFAT driver will likely be supplied with premium versions of Linux which are sold for a price with the proceeds going toward royalties owed. This will not in anyway affect the free 100% GPL versions which will likely contain reverse engineered solutions which likely won't work as well as the licensed solutions. Home users will trend toward the free versions while business users will be happy to pay for the proprietary enhanced versions. Nothing wrong with this at all.
        George Mitchell
  • Give it time, they will all fall in line.

    ;-)
    No_Ax_to_Grind
    • Its all a part of the rationalization process ...

      Microsoft must be careful not to step on free software and free software must tread carefully when it comes to legitimate IP. Its a delicate dance, but in the long run I think they will work it out. I for one pay for a premium Linux version that contains some licensed proprietary components. I am happy to pay for those enhancements and I am sure that many others are as well. So I am really happy to see companies making these options available.
      George Mitchell
  • RE: Open source file-system vendor signs patent deal with Microsoft

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