Microsoft signs confidential IP deal over NTFS

Tuxera, an open-source NTFS company, has signed a confidential deal with Microsoft to co-operate on exFAT, a proprietary alternative to the NTFS file system

Tuxera, the Finnish company behind open-source file system NTFS-3G, has announced a confidential intellectual-property deal with Microsoft, under which it will be permitted to carry on distributing its open-source NTFS product and to offer new exFAT drivers.

Tuxera said on Wednesday that it is also joining the Interop Vendor Alliance, a Microsoft-led collaborative forum for interoperability with Microsoft systems.

"The confidential Intellectual Property Agreement is basically about patents and giving us access to some Windows source code," Tuxera chief executive Mikko Välimäki told ZDNet UK. "ExFAT is part of the forthcoming SDCX standard for flash cards, and we'll be selling our driver to OEMs for devices like cameras."

ExFAT is an extension of Microsoft's FAT file system, and is considered by Microsoft to be complementary to NTFS, the standard file system in Windows.

"We're talking to Microsoft about an open-source exFAT driver, but that's not covered by the agreement. We cannot sell end-user proprietary drivers, we can only sell exFAT on Linux to OEMs at present," Välimäki said.

The Tuxera chief executive added that the company has a dual-licensing policy with NTFS, with its proprietary version having features tailored and optimised for specific purposes that aren't in the GPL'd open-source version.

When asked whether there were patent issues with NTFS, Välimäki said: "Microsoft has never publically said anything about patent issues with NTFS... Our open-source NTFS driver has been available for 10 years, and our commercial driver for two."

"We'll be licensing our Linux NTFS under the GPL, and we have an agreement with Microsoft. If you're a user, you don't need to worry about Microsoft. We'll deal with them directly," he added.