Bang the TomTom slowly

Bang the TomTom slowly

Summary: Sometimes a suit is just a suit. (What was Frank Langella actually doing when Nixon was President?


Sometimes a suit is just a suit. (What was Frank Langella actually doing when Nixon was President? Stay tuned.)

Eben Moglen and the Software Freedom Law Center are thinking about getting involved in the patent suit Microsoft filed against TomTom, writes our Elinor Mills.

The group's blog is, as of this writing, silent on the matter, so cogitation is likely continuing. Please be quiet as you walk by.

A quick glance indicates this may have nothing to do with Linux at all. The patents at issue involve putting a computer in a car, the Microsoft FAT, and some business method patents for which new defenses exist.

The fear, which I admit I'm catching in the penumbra of comments from Bruce Perens and Keith Bergelt of the Open Invention Network, is that this may be a negotiating ploy aimed at getting TomTom to do a patent cross-license, which would include Microsoft's Linux claims.

Microsoft's claims to control technology in Linux have never been litigated yet the company keeps signing cross-licenses, and collecting money from vendors, as though they are valid. Even invalid claims are valid once they're accepted.

This is probably what Moglen and company are thinking about. Fight them over there so you won't have to fight them over here.

Fortunately there are cooler heads, like Jim Zemlin of the Linux Foundation. (BTW, the picture on your blog makes you look 15, Jim -- I'm jealous.)

I disagree with my esteemed colleague Paula Rooney on what Zemlin's post means. If and if and if we will go to war does not mean the buglar is sounding charge or even pursing his lips. Here is the key bit to me:

 We do not feel assumptions should be made about the scope or facts of this case and its inclusion, if any, of Linux-related technology.

Here is another key bit.

Calm down.

Zemlin's message is to hope for the best and plan for the worst. I think he was going for a Mel Brooks lyric from his least-known classic, "The 12 Chairs":

Hope for the best, expect the worst, The world's a stage, we're unrehearsed, Some reach the top, friends,While others drop, friends, Hope for the best, expect the worst

Oh, and in the picture at the top, taken from the movie, Langella is the young man at the right. And when the movie came out Microsoft was barely a gleam in Bill Gates' eye. Point being time heals all wounds and wounds all heals. If you freak at every change you go crazy.


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

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  • Bang the TomTom slowly but surely

    <font color=#808080><em>"TomTom's use of the <strong>Linux kernel</strong> in its products, ..."</em></font>

    The fact of the matter is, the "Linux Kernel" was mentioned by name.

    • Mention is one thing...

      ...suing based on the Linux kernel violating a patent is another.
      • RE: Mention is one thing...

        Mention is one thing...

        And mentioned in a "<strong>law suit</strong>" is another.

        • Very True

          Mentioned in a law suit and being the target to
          or a party to that law suit is yet another
          thing. If SFLC decides that last is the case,
          they might want to talk with TomTom.
    • Well gee, n0neXn0ne.

      I guess you better fire off a note to the Software Freedom Law Center and tell them. It looks like they might have missed that vital piece of information.
      • RE: ... gee, almost forgot

        <font color=#808080><em>" better <strong>fire off a note</strong> to the Software Freedom Law Center..."</em></font>

        I just fire off a note to self. :D

        Hence they know.

  • Still, if we let MS keep threatening, and demanding cross licensing

    agreements for invalid patents, it helps validate invalid patents. One at a time, it is best for small companies to just pay a cross license agreement because it would cost so much to bring in a group of lawyers that could litigate against the army at Microsoft. And, this is EXACTLY why Microsoft picked a small fairly unknown player like TomTom. They do NOT actually want this to go to court, as it would if they were picking on an IBM for instance.

    If TomTom caves, look for MS to continue going after small, relatively unknown players using Linux in their products.

    The other background goal here is to make it look risky to use Linux for devices. MS does not make anything significant on Windows CE, but, a world where all of the gadgets use Linux, reduces the importance of Windows, and increases the knowledge and awareness of Linux.
    • It will be up to the community.

      As details emerge, and if this "IP" impacts other companies products, we could see other companies joining in the fight. In the same way Novel, Redhat, etc jumped into the SCO fight against IBM, who is to say TiVo might not jump into the fray. The FSF jumps into it once it realizes the trojan a bogus but licensed patent represents.

      You might see even non Open Source companies like Sandisk or Cisco (if VFAT impacts them in any way) jump into the case. That's the item that has held MS at bay all this time, the knowledge that a direct salvo at Open Source will bring the brunt of hundreds of companies down on them like a ton of bricks in a mutual assured destruction scenario.

      I said it back in 2006 when MS was threatening to sue RedHat, it won't happen, MS is, on the global scene, one dinky little company compared to the thousands who now rely on Linux directly for revenue (to some extent) and millions of companies who use Linux to run their business.

      If this even starts to grow into an MS vs Linux/Open Source suit, expect a very rapid retreat by MS.

      • And, maybe TomTom should try to turn this more into a Linux vs MS thing.

        The VFAT part of this in actuality IS a direct attack on Linux, as the VFAT is incorportated into EVERY Linux distribution so that we can read and write SD cards, USB sticks, etc, formated with VFAT.
      • RE: Bang the TomTom slowly

        Microsofts claims to control technology in Linux have never been litigated yet the company keeps signing cross-licenses, and collecting money from vendors, as though they are valid. Even invalid claims are valid once theyre accepted.<a href=""><font color="LightGrey">tnx invitation code</font></a>
  • I still wonder if Open Source can proactively force MS.

    The odds of it happening are slim, but imagine the FSF, or Redhat (a directly affected corporation) can't sue MS and force them to outline all the alleged infringement? Simply state that the endless rhetoric and FUD surrounding MS's claims is a tangible hindrance to growing business and therefore seek, proactively through the courts, what the infringements are so that they can be resolved.

    • This might be a good time for others to pile on and get at least the VFAT

      patent thrown out. As MS is picking on low hanging fruit by going after a relative unknown smaller company, it might be possible to go after the MS patents one at a time (low hanging fruit first) to force MS to stop rattling their saber and suing small companies to sow fear.
      • This may be what the SFLC is thinking

        If the SFLC decides Microsoft's case is weak,
        and if TomTom agrees to let SFLC fight on its
        behalf, and if the case goes to trial and
        Microsoft loses....

        See why I advocated quiet while walking past
        their offices. A lot of ifs there.
        • As when MS was about to lose the trademark on Windows, MS folded really

          fast and paid off Lindows (Linspire) to the tune of millions. If MS starts to realize there is a good chance of having the VFAT patent invalidated, look for this one to end the same way, with MS folding and paying off TomTom.
  • RE: Bang the TomTom slowly

    I actually think it is pitiful that microsoft is going
    after tom tom. if they get all this BS going how many
    other products that we connect to a pc are going to
    have to bow down ????
    this can lead to so many things I really fear at the
    state of it.
  • Beat this

    I've posted these same words to other threads around ZDnet, which are related to this topic. Call it re-useable code, if you like. Truth is a sytsem invariant, and can always bear repetition ;-)

    Surely it's obvious what Microsoft are doing? They want to put Tom-Tom out of business and create Fear in the open source universe.

    The charges laid against Tom Tom are irrelevant. They might just as well have claimed that they had a patent on 'Naming an in car device after any percussive instrument". They don't need to prove the charge, they just need to get Tom-Tom into court. Microsoft - war-chest over $80 billion. They can fund a team of 200 lawyers for 20 years on their loose change.

    Tom-Tom - bled dry, just by fighting the case in court, with its attendant crippling costs and blows to corporate moral. Bled dry and destroyed, and let that be a lesson to ALL who dare threaten the Microsoft dinosaur.

    I know that my Navman S50 - no doubt 'Licensed by Microsoft' - will not talk to my Mac. It's Windows only. So because the Sat Nav device is polluted with Microsoft, I can't access the functionality I've p[aid for unless I also pay a Microsoft tax. That's the strategy, any way. So I'm forced to borrow a Windows system to download new maps, upload photos - Microsoft suddenly own my sat nav, suddenly the sat nav I paid Navman for is dtelling me that unless I plug it into Windows, it isn't going to let me access stuff I've paid for. Yes, I'm wondering whether it was the wrong decisicon to go with the biggest, widest display.

    "You shouldn't have bought a Navman then", chant the Microsofties. "Nobody MADE you buy it, did they?"

    So I guess I should have bought a Mac compatible sat nav, eh? Like the Tom-Tom, you mean? Ahhh, now you see why Microsoft want Tom-Tom out of business.

    Am I allowed to say 'Tom-Tom'?

    Haven't Microsoft already patented the characters A,E,I,O,U and $?
    • SFLC

      SFLC is considering taking on the case of TomTom
      before the court, either for free or for a
      fairly low rate.

      I know they have to investigate, and see how
      good a case they have, before they step in.

      This may be the case they are looking for. Or it
      may not. They will decide that. Zemlin says
  • Well I'm supporting TomTom

    After comparing different units, I just purchased the TomTom 730 (instead of the Garmin nuvi 760). They are 95% comparable with the following key exceptions:

    Map updates are free with TomTom, Garmin you must pay more Microsoft royalties.

    Garmin uses way too much Microsoft - the main reason why I can't go this route (I put my money where my mouth is - and that's anywhere MS is not (hence my move to Apple years ago).

    Frankly, this cross-licensing thing is just Microsofts new way to control all tech. I am more than happy to support those who support multiple choices (TomTom supports Mac OS X and not only Windows).
    No More Microsoft Software Ever!
    • Support in the market vs. court

      Would you still support TomTom in the market if
      they chose to knuckle under and avoid a court
      fight? Say do a cross-license deal in which no
      money changed hands.

      Just wondering.
      • Software in Europe is not patentable

        So Tom-Tom should try to tackle MS in Europe. The courts would throw MS case out and might even exact retribution for their cowardly tactics.
        I remember a few years ago that the French fined MS several million euros for copyright infringement.
        Why is MS so concerned about competition from a small company like Tom-Tom, could they be realising that most of the world hates them?