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Microsoft and TomTom settle patent dispute



David Worthington
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April 2, 2009 —  Star-crossed patent litigants Microsoft and TomTom have settled their differences out of court; financial terms were not disclosed.

The settlement requires TomTom to pay Microsoft for coverage under eight car navigation and file-system management patents for all past and future sales of relevant products. TomTom has also agreed to phase out functionality related to Microsoft's FAT LFN (Long File Name) file-system patents within two years.

TomTom's customers will receive coverage under the patents during the transition. In a joint statement, the companies said that the agreement respected TomTom's obligations under the General Public License Version 2 (GPL v2).

"This agreement puts an end to the litigation between our two companies," said Peter Spours, director of intellectual property strategy and transactions at TomTom. "It is drafted in a way that ensures TomTom's full compliance with its obligations under the GPLv2, and thus reaffirms our commitment to the open-source community."

In late February, Microsoft's lawsuit against TomTom was filed in the U.S. District Court of Western Washington and with the International Trade Commission for allegedly violating its patents. Court filings revealed that Microsoft has 18 licensees—all under non-disclosure agreements—for its FAT patents.

That case set off a firestorm of controversy in the open-source community. Some open-source legal experts, including Software Freedom Law Center's Eben Moglen, said that entering into a patent license with Microsoft could constitute a severe violation of GPL v2, but they acknowledged that the agreements could be permissible under the license if certain conditions were met.

TomTom responded to Microsoft's legal actions with a countersuit, alleging that Microsoft's Streets & Trips navigation software product infringes on TomTom's patents. Under the terms of the settlement, Microsoft will receive coverage for four patents from TomTom.

"We are pleased TomTom has chosen to resolve the litigation amicably by entering into a patent agreement," said Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft.

"Our car-navigation patents, which are at the heart of the enhanced auto experience enjoyed by millions of drivers today, have been licensed to many companies, including leaders in the car-navigation sector. The file management system patents, which increase file management system efficiency and functionality, have also been licensed by many companies, including those that produce mixed-source products."





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Comments


04/03/2009 06:09:32 PM EST

Kinda funny. Moglen and Stallman couldn't convince Linus to take Linux to GPLv3 so now they're trying to pretend that v2 has the same prohibitions. There's a pretty good blog post on this on IPKat (http://ipkitten.blogspot.com/2009/04/microsoft-and-tomtom-kat-hosts-dogfood.html)

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