Microsoft's secret plan behind the TomTom suit?

Microsoft's secret plan behind the TomTom suit?

Summary: A very interesting analysis of the Microsoft versus TomTom suit has appeared on veteran journo Glyn Moody's blog, says ZDNet UK's Rupert Goodwins.

A very interesting analysis of the Microsoft versus TomTom suit has appeared on veteran journo Glyn Moody's blog.

Having established that Microsoft's "it's not about Linux" schtick is transparently wrong - the area covered by the FAT patents is pure Linux, unchanged by TomTom, so any Linux distro with FAT compatibility would qualify - we then get a post from Jeremy Allison, who's well versed in Microsoft's approach to open source.

You must read the whole thing yourself - but in brief, he says that Microsoft has been putting all its IP deals under NDA because the cross-licensing of patents is disallowed under Section 7 of GPL 2. Thus, anyone who signs is disallowed from distributing any of the Linux kernel - so Microsoft has them over a barrel.

This explains the secrecy behind all the deals - which, lest we forget, Microsoft is promoting as examples of open sharing - and is building up to a situation where Microsoft can detonate a huge improvised explosive device under Linux.

What might save things is if TomTom prevails, negating the relevant patents - and there are good reasons to think it would, if it can afford to fight. If it can't afford to fight, then things get just that little nastier. As Allison says:

"Tom Tom are the first company to publicly refuse to engage in this ugly little protection racket, and so they got sued. Had Tom Tom silently agreed to violate the GPL, as so many others have, then we'd only hear about a vague "patent cross licensing deal" just like the ones Microsoft announces with other companies.

Make no mistake, this is intended to force Tom Tom to violate the GPL, or change to Microsoft embedded software."

Rupert Goodwins' blog was originally posted on

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

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • Well, maybe it is time to draw a line in the sand. Maybe this is a good one

    for SFLC, IBM, and other to get involved with. TomTom can not fight it alone, they will just have to switch to WinCE.
    • Why should they? This is a load of BS

      It is odd that everyone has a different opinion of what is "really happening"; you have these people left and right pointing out the truth "as they see it", and in the end, it has not even made it to court, so no one really knows what it is all about except for Microsoft and TomTom.

      So why should SFLC, IBM, and other to get involved if in the end it really [i]is[/i] about Tom Tom infringing on patented IP?

      I believe Rupert Goodwins' has no knowledge of what is going on, yet will write about it so as to earn a few talkback dollars, nothing more.

      And the interesting thing about all this? That they are using Linux, GPL 2, where they can take freely of the Linux kernal, without having to release any advancement back to the community. Why?

      Because that way they [i]can[/i] infringe on others IP, without giving anyone the right to see it.

      [i][b]That[/b][/i] is the real crime here.
      • no....

        Micro$oft baaaaaaaaaad, >drool<
      • I recall a lot of people having opinions about SCO.

        The vast majority believed SCO were lying through their teeth. It turns out they were right. Don't worry though, the real crime will come to light some day. And when it does dear GL, you may want to make yourself scarce.
        • Reading the other blogs here

          it sounds like Tom Tom doesn't want to license FAT32, which is in Linux, which is the IP of MS.

          So GL and you may both be right, maybe the real crime has come to light allready, with Linux being the criminal?
          • Who does want to license FAT?

            Nobody! The only companies who have done so, if indeed there are any, were strong-armed like Microsoft is to doing with Tom Tom. Why would the whole World, essentially, tell Microsoft to stick it? If you answer correctly, you get a gold star.
          • I'll try

            Because no-one wants to pay royalties or be sued for using a filesystem used commonly for almost 20 years which could have been written by a college student.

            That the linux kernel has included the driver for the FATXX filesystems for many years, without being called up on it, might tick off some vendors of non-Microsoft devices.

            Or no?
          • What about the MS "Covenant Not to Sue" ?

            Not only did MS not enforce these FAT patents (which would make them unenforceable even if the patents were valid) but there was also the famous "Covenant Not to Sue" in which, IIRC, MS promised to give a free pass for the kinds of things that consumer electronics companies like TomTom, flash memory makers, and Linux distros use FAT and vFat for.
          • You both (AndyCee & bswiss) get a gold star, good work.

            Pithy the Elder, however, gets sent home with a note for his parents.
  • not so secret

    M$ hopes that it will end with a settlement that would alow it to charge an IP tax on TomTom, and use the FUD to squeze other suckers.
    M$ does not want a real lawsuit because it will get no money because Linux is free, or worse, would get the so called patents invalidated.
    Linux Geek
  • RE: Microsoft's secret plan behind the TomTom suit?

    Microsoft has trditionally bought and destroyed competition. Bill Gates is a low life thief!
    • Very true

      Hi started Microsoft by stealing code from his employer, and then selling it as his own.
  • RE: Microsoft's secret plan behind the TomTom suit?

    Bill Gates nad Microsoft intend to trash or own TomTom. I have nothing but contempt for Gates and Microsoft try to buy a computer without Vista crapware!
    • You can...

      if you buy a Mac.

      I can even buy a computer with Ubuntu pre-installed on it from the local computer store (OEM install version).

      (and yes, I do use Ubuntu at home, and just helped my mother-in-law ditch MS-Vista for Ubuntu)
      • Yes. I do what is necessary to ensure Microsoft does not get my money.

        I am the proud owner of 2 iMacs, a Dual G5 Tower, a MacBook Pro, 2 iPods, and an iPhone. Lots of money NOT going to Microsoft or their 'partners'. I also just bought a TomTom GO 730. I am supporting the fight against all things Microsoft.

        Join me!!
        No More Microsoft Software Ever!
        • Quick! More Purple CoolAid!

          Mac and Linux zealots never cease to amaze me. They are the first to scream "Microsoft is doing something illegal again" or Windows costs too much, yet many of them willfully endorse IP theft and pay 20% more than they have to for their PCs. The only thing I can think of to explain this bizarre behavior is some type of quasi-religious cult brainwashing. [b]Quick! More Purple CoolAid![/b]
          John Westra
      • You can buy PC without an OS...

        People from US have given me the impression that in US they don't sell PC's that simply have no OS installed in them - I find that hard to believe though...

        Anyway, personally I just buy the parts and assemble one by myself... This way (and when buying assembled computer without OS in it) you get it cheaper as even installation of free OS (let alone one that you have to pay for) increases the cost...
  • RE: Microsoft's secret plan behind the TomTom suit?

    I would not hesitate to say there's more here than just a suit against TomTom, but I would say that that it is not about Linux, but about the EU. The EU has been repeatedly harassing American tech companies, primarily Microsoft, with lawsuits that seem more financially motivated than anything else.

    If Microsoft tried to put the hurt on Linux through a lawsuit like this they would immediately get hit by antitrust cases left and right, and largely well deservedly. But instead, they go after TomTom to show that they can fight back and if the EU is determined to extract money from them they can just as well extract it from companies in the EU.
    • Good argument, but...

      ...the EU went after Microsoft because of their predatory practices, not for financial gain.
  • RE: Microsoft's secret plan behind the TomTom suit?

    The tiger never changes its stripes. Any flatulent noise about the virtues of open source from M$ should be regarded as adequate notice villainy is afoot.