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Linux Foundation ready to fight Microsoft if TomTom lawsuit involves Linux kernel

The Linux Foundation insists it is equipped to fight Microsoft if the software giant’s lawsuit against TomTom impacts the open source Linux kernel.In his blog, Executive Director Jim Zemlin advised concerned parties to “calm down” in light of statements by Microsoft’s deputy general counsel that it is targeting TomTom’s GPS mapping software and not Linux.

The Linux Foundation insists it is equipped to fight Microsoft if the software giant’s lawsuit against TomTom impacts the open source Linux kernel.

In his blog, Executive Director Jim Zemlin advised concerned parties to “calm down” in light of statements by Microsoft’s deputy general counsel that it is targeting TomTom’s GPS mapping software and not Linux.

Yet Zemlin was quick to reassure the community that the foundation and Open Invention* Network has the funds necessary to defend Linux if necessary. TomTom’s GPS mapping software incorporates the Linux kernel. Below is an excerpt of Zemlin’s blog:

Calm Down

Right now the Microsoft claim against Tom Tom is a private dispute between those two entities concerning GPS mapping software. 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. Any patent litigator will tell you that the path between asserting a claim under a patent and an actual, final determination that the patent is (1)valid and (2) that the claims of the patent are actually infringed is an extremely long road. If this case is in any way directed at Linux (in fact, Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing, has specifically stated that it isn’t), the Linux ecosystem has enormously sophisticated resources available to assist in the defense of any claim that is made against Linux.

Hope for the Best

It is our sincere hope that Microsoft will realize that cases like these only burden the software industry and do not serve their customers’ best interests. Instead of litigating, we believe customers prefer software companies to focus on building innovative products.

Plan for the Worst

The Linux Foundation is working closely with our partner the Open Invention Network, and our members, and is well prepared for any claims against Linux. We have great confidence in the foundation they have laid. Unfortunately, claims like these are a by-product of our business and legal system today. For now, we are closely watching the situation and will remain ready to mount a Linux’s defense, should the need arise.

And it just might arise. In her blog, Mary Jo Foley cites an online report by TechFlash’s Todd Bishop, which maintains that Microsoft in its lawsuit alleges that TomTom’s products violate eight of its patents, including three related to TomTom’s implementation of the Linux kernel.

Microsoft's Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing, said the case targets GPS mapping software -- not Linux per se -- but we'll have to wait and see how the patent claims pan out.

I can think of at least two reasons why Microsoft chose to take on TomTom: TomTom's new personal navigation devices carry a Go Live and Live Services product naming -- the same branding used by Microsoft for its next gen web services. And those devices just hit the U.S. market last month.

*It is the Open Invention Network, not Open innovation Network as originally published. I regret the error.