Microsoft sues Linux-based TomTom over patents

The legal action against TomTom could signal a more aggressive stance regarding open source by the software giant

"You might have a strong reaction based on fear," initially, he said. Over time, there still could be some effect but not as much of the shock effect, said Haislmaier. Linux, he said, is just as susceptible to a patent infringement lawsuit as any other OS, he said.

Whether Microsoft takes more action remains to be seen, Haislmaier noted. He acknowledged the company previously has complained about its patents being allegedly violated by Linux. "The proof will happen over time whether this is the opening salvo [of] Microsoft putting patents where its mouth has been," said Haislmaier.

He advised management of open source risks by knowing what open source software is being used and complying with applicable licenses. There are also are indemnification services that cover multiple open source projects, Haislmaier said. He has done work for OpenLogic, which has offered this type of service, he added.

A critic of Microsoft, Roy Schestowitz, editor of the Boycott Novell Web site, emphasized Microsoft's pursuit of royalties as a new development.

"My stance is that TomTom is likely to be one company among several more that were quietly pressured to pay Microsoft for software patents," Schestowitz said. Microsoft declined to respond to Schestowitz's comment.

The three US patents Microsoft says are violated by TomTom's Linux kernel include:

  • Patents 5,579,517 and 5,758,352, providing a common name space for long and short file names.
  • Patent 6,256,642, for a method and system for file system management using Flash-EPROM.

The other five patents include:

  • Patent 6,175,789, pertaining to a vehicle computer system running multiple applications.
  • Patent 7,054,745, offering a method and system for generating driving directions.
  • Patent 6,704,032, for interacting with a controllable object in a graphical user interface environment.
  • Patent 7,117,286, providing for a portable computing device-integrated appliance.
  • Patent 6,202,008, for a vehicle computer system with wireless Internet connectivity.

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