Microsoft FAT patent loss endangers its Android revenue

Microsoft FAT patent loss endangers its Android revenue

Summary: A patent loss in a German court may lead to trouble for Microsoft's Android strategy.


The Bundespatentgericht (Federal Patent Court of Germany) has ruled that that Microsoft's European Union (EU) patent EP0618540  for its File Allocation Table (FAT) or "common name space for long and short filenames" is entirely invalid.


While Microsoft is expected to appeal this decision, it will be months before it appears in front of the next court. In the meantime, one of Microsoft main Android patent weapons has been rendered harmless for now in the EU. 

This may sound like a minor patent. It's not. Microsoft has been using this patent since 2003 to pressure Linux and Android companies that use the popular FAT file system for compatibility with other operating systems.

Just how important is it? In July 2012, Microsoft got a German court to give them the right to ban all Motorola Android device sales in Germany because of it. Microsoft has also used this, and other FAT patents, to get numerous Android vendors to sign patent-licensing agreements.

These patent agreements, in turn, have made Android, not Windows RT, not Windows Phone 8, its most profitable mobile operating system. It's been estimated that Microsoft makes as much as $8 for every Android device sold. This would add up to Microsoft making as much as $3.4 billion in 2013 from Android sales. That's important.

Don't count Microsoft's FAT patent out yet. This patent has been attacked numerous times before. It has also been rejected and then reinstated at least once before.

Still, this latest result, combined with the recent judgment that the US version of this patent, "Common name space for long and short filenames," Patent No. 5,758,352 "invalid for obviousness," may finally blunt this patent's usefulness for Microsoft.

Related Stories:

Topics: Mobility, Android, Legal, Linux, Microsoft, Patents

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  • Google takes another step toward a Windows compatable desktop OS

    I'm guessing it's already near completion, they just have to clear legal issues to release it. And then Google will take the desktop market.
    • Too bad you don't believe that.

      And I say that with certainty.
      • 100% I absolutely believe it

        two months after release Google will take 10% of the desktop market, in the next ten months Google will take 20% more of the desktop market, giving it a 30% desktop share in the first year
        And Google wont go away, they'll continue to take market share from M$ month after month
        • Aren't PCs dying?

          Your beloved OSS gurus SJVN and MBR are chanting this Post-PC era for a long time. And now you say your Godfather company Google is building Desktops?
          Ram U
          • Win8 is killing the desktop

            Google desktop will help save it
          • LoL

            Do you really believe it? If desktop is dying, that means it is dying no matter of what who is building unless, your Godfather company decides to give one free to everyone on the earth. They could do it of course.
            Ram U
          • No, it's Windows that's dying, not desktop

            There's several possible successors, including Chromebox.

            Post-PC is nonsense; granted the market has shrunk, as many people had no other option. Now they do, with tablets, chromebooks, phablets.

            But many will NEED a desktop, and some like it.

            But few will CHOOSE windows, now they've seen better operating systems.

            It'll be dead in the water in 10 years, it won't die quickly.
          • Well it just might be.

            Recently when someone asks me to help with their netbook [ASUS Eee PC and such] I install... Android... And usually they are happy - they get familiar interface, familiar widgets, menu and controls. They have web browser, spotify, facebook sometimes watch movies. If they don't like it I install it along with Windows and make GRUB boot to Android as default. And in some time they get used to Android so much that they really log in into Windows only when they certainly need to.

            That might sound stupid, but that makes people make select open source os on their next desktop/laptop computer.
            Piotr Szmitkowski
          • Itsn't it funny that FAT is fat and slow...

            ... and likely one of the worst file systems on earth. It's unbelievable how the worst scum of software and systems are so widely used in computers and other devices. The claim that mankind is marching behind the tide of greatest innovations is pure joke. Instead - after what Mr. Snowden has told us - this world is run by eager and not so innovative corporations and imperialist goverment.
          • FAT was a good sytetm

            FAT is more than 20 years old. it was better than its competitors and gained a huge following and many applications became dependent upon it. We have made a lot of better systems today, but we have all those apps people still use.
          • Less than 20% of new devices connect to internet...

            ... are nowadays portables and desktops (=non-mobiles). More than 80% are mobiles. Social media (Twitter, Facebook...) and news got more hits by mobiles than non-mobiles.

            Portables and desktops are not totally dying. However their weight/importance is less and less vital. Majority of people - especially outside western countries - are moving to mobiles. Tablet is more common internet client next year than portables.
          • Your just mad.

            We are in a post Post-PC(Desktop) era, Desktops haven't been selling for the last 2 years and in the last 5 years, 1 Billion+ Android(Linux) devices have been sold. Microsoft only has 1.9 Billion active licenses, and its taken them 20+ years to gather those types of numbers.

            Once Intel gets its act together there isn't going to be anymore Microsoft, just about every major player in the industry as joined the Linux Foundation and is actively contributing. VFX and the movie industry alone is ran primarily on Linux and Mac.

            The only place windows is even found anymore in on the Desktop.
          • You're all nuts!!

            Desktops don't sell as well because there are enough folk happy to browse on their pads etc. The others who still want a PC, guess what?? they buy a PC. Me... I have my Linux (was Suse, now Mint) and its fine, BUT I have a win 8.1; the kids have 8.1 & 7; we use MS Office sponsored at agreat price (Yep... I'd be looking open source like you guys if I wasn't getting a great deal).

            The reality is the vast majority of folk are happy with internet access, online shopping and several tablet/phone apps. I am too. to a point. But some things are better on my PC; like video editing/conversion; like photo editing and saving to my NAS; like music ripping and storing on my NAS.. lots of things need a PC of some sort.

            So get over it! I love my ipad mini, I love my Asus tablet, I love my iPhone and Blackberry Z10 BUT I do most of what I want on a PC in the comfort of my home. Give us peace, enjoy what works for you, but please chill out and let everyone buy whay they want/need. Please!!!
          • I have never understood that " i love..." attitude

            probably because i'm not American and critical towards sales persons.
          • Sorry I flagged, bad mouse click.

          • 60% of new devices are using Linux and

            even in portables/desktops Windows licenses are getting just 55% of market share.

            Tablets: 65% for Linux
            Smartphones: 80% for Linux
            Portables/desktops: 4-5% for Linux (including ChromeOS) and 6% for Mac. Some 35% for Windows pirates.

            Besides it's obvious that some 80% of pc-users could easily without pain at all move from Windows to Linux. All you have to do is just walk away from Microsoft Gulag.
          • How do you figure...

            How is it obvious and where does your 80% come from? The smartphone statistic? Because if so you are dreaming that many of those individuals know or care what Linux is. Windows to Linux is not a painless move and this is from someone who has been using Linux for years. Full of proprietary hardware issues from sound to graphics, printers can still be a bitch and even getting Linux to talk to Windows(not the other way around) is a joke. Linux for my server "Yes please" Linux for my desktop "Screw that".

            And a final note, by calling Microsoft a Gulag you paint yourself in odd colours. From your statement on not understanding the "I love..." attitidue it appears you have no problem with hate.
          • Linux for my server "Yes please" Linux for my desktop "Screw that".

            absolutely agree. been a avid desktop linux user for over 4 years fulltime and the last new releases of ubuntu/linux have been nothing but a nightmare to deal with. multiple hardware issues and no matter what beta or latest nvidia proprietary drivers i use on linux, its always choppy and tears and find the system running slower. but on the flip side, the intel gpu runs sweet till late. now the system runs choppy and laggy on the latest ubuntu release. then i decided to switch back to windows 7, and boy, and i mean boy, windows just simply blows linux desktop out of the water. im refering to windows 7, not 8 as i find 8 a total mess.
            Tolga Erok
          • Dude.. Load 8.1

            You don't have to use the metro apps.. just use the desktop. It is SOOO fast..compared to Windows 7. Not even a contest.
          • Drivers aren't that of a problem

            did't have that many problems with drivers.
            In fact used to have more problems with drivers when reinstalling windows xp (when xp broke). Most installements of Ubuntu seem to just work now "out of the box". Only had some issues with NVidia Optimus on my own pc. Works just fine.
            Christophe Boschmans