Thursday, February 26, 2009

TomTom denies Microsoft's patent infringement assertions

DowJones reported: Dutch navigations solutions company TomTom NV said Feb. 26 it rejects all Microsoft Corp.'s claims that it is infringing on eight of its patents.

Microsoft Corp. said Feb. 25 that it filed patent-infringement claims in a federal court for the Western District of Washington in the U.S., and with the International Trade Commission, against TomTom, Europe's largest maker of car-navigation devices.

TomTom spokesperson Taco Titulare told Dow Jones Newswires Thursday that TomTom rejects the Microsoft claims and that the firm will "vigorous defend" itself, without elaborating.

CNET noted that PART of the infringement assertion is related to TomTom's use of LINUX -->

While five of the patents relate to car navigation systems specifically, three of the claims pertain to TomTom's use of the Linux kernel in its products, Horacio Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said Microsoft chose to include the open source claims alongside the proprietary GPS system claims because both related to TomTom. He characterized the suit as a dispute with TomTom as opposed to a new salvo against Linux.

This could in fact be an opening salvo against LINUX. If traction is obtained, look for more.

The Register was more specific about the threat to open source:

For those in the open-source community long skeptical of Microsoft’s increasing out reach, TomTom is their “told you so” moment.

Bradley Kuhn, Software Freedom Law Center policy analyst, told The Reg Wednesday evening: “It’s a good moment for people to take a step back and re-think how friendly Microsoft is to open source.”

To Kuhn, people should remember that whereas patents in software are antithetical to free and open source, they’re the bread and butter of Microsoft’s business model — a model that’s not changed.

Kuhn said he’s been “very troubled” by how much people in the free and open-source world have become accepting of Microsoft just because it’s given money to organizations like Apache Software Foundation (ASF), when just two years back chief executive Steve Ballmer threatened Linux over unspecified Microsoft patents in Linux and open source.

Thus, on the one hand Microsoft (and the Coalition for Patent Fairness) complain to Congress about patent infringement suits, but on the other hand Microsoft has gathered an arsenal of patents to inflict patent infringement suits on others.

TechFlash has posted the Microsoft complaint. Microsoft's patents in suit are: 6,175,789; 7,054,745; 6,704,032; 7,117,286; 6,202,008; 5,579,517; 5,758,352; and 6,256,642.

Microsoft does assert willful infringement (willful infringement is a hot topic in patent reform):

Defendants’ infringement of the Microsoft patents-in-suit constitutes willful and
deliberate infringement, entitling Microsoft to enhanced damages and reasonable attorney fees
and costs. Microsoft provided defendant TomTom N.V. notice of its infringement allegations in
a June 13, 2008 letter to Peter-Frans Pauwels, Chief Technical Officer of Defendant TomTom
N.V. Upon information and belief, Defendant TomTom, Inc. received notice of Microsoft’s
infringement allegations from its parent, TomTom N.V.

Some of the asserted patents had been re-examined, eg

Microsoft is the owner of all right, title, and interest in U.S. Patent No. 5,579,517
(“the ’517 patent”), entitled “Common Name Space for Long and Short Filenames,” duly and
properly issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on November 26, 1996. A
reexamination certificate was issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the ‘517 patent
on November 28, 2006.

The law firm filing the complaint was Klarquist.

See also


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