Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Microsoft Software Linux

The Real Reason For Microsoft's TomTom Lawsuit 408

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the get-your-conspiracy-on dept.
Glyn Moody writes "We now know that Microsoft's lawsuit isn't just against TomTom, but against Linux too: but what exactly is Microsoft hoping to achieve? Samba's Jeremy Allison has a fascinating theory: 'What people are missing about this is the either/or choice that Microsoft is giving Tom Tom. It isn't a case of cross-license and everything is ok. If Tom Tom or any other company cross licenses patents then by section 7 of GPLv2 (for the Linux kernel) they lose the rights to redistribute the kernel *at all*. Make no mistake, this is intended to force Tom Tom to violate the GPL, or change to Microsoft embedded software.' Maybe embedded Linux is starting to get too popular."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

The Real Reason For Microsoft's TomTom Lawsuit

Comments Filter:
  • Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alain94040 (785132) * on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:04PM (#27079849) Homepage

    Ok, I'll play devil's advocate for a second. Here are the relevant parts of section 7 of the GPLv2:

    If, for any reason, conditions are imposed on you that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all.

    Here's an example. The US government probably prevents you from selling your open source software to Cuba or Iran. If I read section 7 correctly, that counts as a "condition imposed on you". So really you lose all rights to using that code?

    You got to be careful with literal interpretation of legalese... sometimes you can push the arguments too far.

    I hope the same applies to this theory that Microsoft is forcing people to violate the GPL and therefore lose their rights to the code.

    • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Informative)

      by FrYGuY101 (770432) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:08PM (#27079933) Journal

      So really you lose all rights to using that code?

      You lose all rights to DISTRIBUTE that code. You can still use that code in perpetuity, though.

      • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:18PM (#27080083)

        Since they have to distribute the code so people can use their devices they could just switch to a free FS. As I understand (IANAL) this lawsuit mostly concerns their use of FAT for their memory cards. If they used EXT2 and bundled EXT2IFS with their windows app they might well be able to avoid a lot of the hassles from Microsoft regarding this.

        • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Insightful)

          by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:40PM (#27080413) Journal

          And would make updating the thing nearly impossible. They do firmware updates by mounting it as a USB mass storage device. Without a hardware redesign to emulate FAT (which would probably also violate M$'s patents), they're pretty much stuck here.

          This is why I've been arguing for nearly a decade that file and volume formats should not be patentable, nor the means used to read and write those formats. Free and open access to data formats is fundamentally crucial to the interoperability of all hardware and software, and as such, statutes should very clearly define those as part of a class explicitly excluded from patent protection. As soon as the courts allow even one patent like this to stand, they are pretty much saying "f**k you" to the entire computing industry and depriving consumers of their fundamental right to have access to data of their own creation. That data isn't Microsoft's. It belongs to the users, and it is a violation of the most fundamental rights of the users to deny them access to content that they create merely because they choose to not use a particular software product, regardless of whether that product is made by Microsoft, AutoCAD [slashdot.org], or anybody else.

          Locking down user content is fundamentally wrong and unjust, and any laws that allow a company to do so are also fundamentally wrong and unjust. Therefore, it is our right, nay, our duty to users everywhere to violate those bits of intellectual property at every possible opportunity until it becomes such a legal nightmare for these companies that they are forced to back down. Anything less would be uncivilized. I know this is no Rosa Parks moment, but it still very much necessary for the long-term viability of computing as we know it. Just say no to data format patents.

          • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Insightful)

            by rbanffy (584143) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:43PM (#27080469) Homepage Journal

            You don't need to emulate the FAT long file names in order to do that. Only the long file name hack is covered by their patents. I see no good reason to even use long file names in applications like GPS or cameras, since you don't see the files most of the time.

            • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:4, Interesting)

              by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:10PM (#27080879) Journal

              The problem is that these extensions aren't just used for long file names. IIRC, extra directory records in the FAT filesystem are also overloaded for other purposes like permissions, without which Linux et al would be unbootable off of FAT. I'd imagine that many of those uses would run afoul of the patent, but I could be wrong.

              More to the point, if it only applies to its use for naming purposes and not to the concept of storing additional data about a file in additional directory entries with reserved type codes that older OSes ignore, then the invention should have been unpatentable anyway, as there's nothing particularly original about taking the Rock Ridge extension set from ISO-9660 and applying the exact same concept to FAT except insofar as it uses additional directory entries. That's literally all they did here. Instead of an additional entry in the system use area of the variable-length directory record, they use additional directory entries with a different type code, but that's basically caused by differences in how the filesystem describes a file....

              • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Nimey (114278) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:15PM (#27081743) Homepage Journal

                Wrong. FAT does not support permissions of any kind. VFAT adds long file names, which is done by using half of a given directory's entries for long filenames and the remainder as the standard 8.3 short names.

                If you were talking about FAT attributes (archive, read-only, hidden, system, volume label), those are done with flag bits.

          • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Anachragnome (1008495) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:42PM (#27081323)

            "Therefore, it is our right, nay, our duty to users everywhere to violate those bits of intellectual property at every possible opportunity until it becomes such a legal nightmare for these companies that they are forced to back down. Anything less would be uncivilized. I know this is no Rosa Parks moment, but it still very much necessary for the long-term viability of computing as we know it. Just say no to data format patents."

            This is precisely the tactic I encourage everyone I know to use.

            These people are no longer playing fair, WHY SHOULD WE?

            In this day and age, corporations are, quite simply put, walking right over common sense. There is no more "customer service", but rather corporations simply see us all as resources to be mined.

            When these people no longer see reason, no longer work to provide a product without stifling the competition, then "Intellectual Disobedience" is the ONLY route left to address the situation.

            Speak with your mind, voice and dollar, in that order.

            • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:4, Insightful)

              by idlemachine (732136) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @08:24PM (#27085985)

              These people are no longer playing fair, WHY SHOULD WE?

              "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster."

              Or how about: "Two wrongs don't make a right."

              Because how you win is as important, if not more so, than winning itself. I agree that there are times that we need to fight but we also need to be sure we don't lose ourselves in the battle.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by williamhb (758070)

              "Therefore, it is our right, nay, our duty to users everywhere to violate those bits of intellectual property at every possible opportunity until it becomes such a legal nightmare for these companies that they are forced to back down. Anything less would be uncivilized. I know this is no Rosa Parks moment, but it still very much necessary for the long-term viability of computing as we know it. Just say no to data format patents."

              This is precisely the tactic I encourage everyone I know to use.

              These people are no longer playing fair, WHY SHOULD WE?

              In this day and age, corporations are, quite simply put, walking right over common sense. There is no more "customer service", but rather corporations simply see us all as resources to be mined.

              When these people no longer see reason, no longer work to provide a product without stifling the competition, then "Intellectual Disobedience" is the ONLY route left to address the situation.

              If by "Intellectual Disobediance", you mean "allegedly violating their patent by distributing Linux access to FAT in major products", then your theory doesn't appear to work. Far from disrupting Microsoft, in the manner of civil disobedience, it just lets their lawyers think "woot, more revenue streams after we've won the first patent lawsuit!" If your complaint is that they see us as resources to be mined, then the solution is unlikely to be just to give them more resources to mine... you actually need t

          • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Insightful)

            by arkhan_jg (618674) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @03:42PM (#27082073)

            Why not got one further, and simply ban software patents of all kinds, like most other countries in the world?

            Software is covered by copyright; there's no need to grant patents on it too. Filesystems, like many other software concepts are relatively easy to come up with, on a broad basis - and the same general patent covers many, many approaches and denies them to competitive forces for way too long. The clever, hard work is in actually implementing the idea and making it work.

            Patents were originally intended so that someone could come along, read the patent, and easily replicate the entire product, once the monopoly period was over, and the inventor compensated for putting his work into the public domain. The equivalent for software, direct instructions on how it works - is the code and documentation itself, not some vague patent intentionally designed to cover as many possible variations upon the idea as possible.

            Software patents are solely about preventing competition and raising the bar to entry for smaller, innovative firms. When engineers are specifically instructed to never, ever read patents in case they get sued for subsequently implementing anything that vaguely touches on a similar area; when this happens, patents are actively harmful to innovation and endeavour. Get rid of them, as pretty much every other country in the world has done.

            • Re:I disagree! (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Lord Bitman (95493) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @04:20PM (#27082633) Homepage

              Software is covered by patents, there is no need for it to be covered by copyright, too.

              Software is often distributed in binary form: a form which cannot be derived from. The protection, for a limited time, of original works, is meant to allow them to be developed so that people in the future can create derivative works based on them.

                - NO protection without source code.
                - NO copyright on compiled software (makes as much sense as copyrighting a hammer)
                - Patent protections on binaries, contingent on the full source being provided.
                - NO obvious patents.

              Software patents aren't bad, they just have a bad name because stupid ones have been granted.

        • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Interesting)

          by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:40PM (#27080429) Homepage Journal

          Forget ext2, they can use UDF [wikipedia.org], which is already supported on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X and is not patent encumbered.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dgatwood (11270)

            Actually, there are plenty of patents on UDF, or at least patents on ways of implementing UDF whose performance is even slightly usable.... In other words, just making sure the UDF implementation in Linux is clear of patent issues would be a major headache. There's really no good solution for storing user data that can't potentially run afoul of patents short of convincing the courts to ban data format patents and void all existing patents in this area. It's yet another clear example of how patents are s

          • UDF never did catch on for removable memory but I wish it would have. It has some obvious advantages, and its universally supported as well.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mrsteveman1 (1010381)

            Does UDF work well on storage like flash?

    • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:10PM (#27079961) Homepage Journal

      So really you lose all rights to using that code?

      Only in so much as using means the same as distributing, or more specifically distributing to those countries.

      So in other words, no.

    • by Thuktun (221615)

      The US government probably prevents you from selling your open source software to Cuba or Iran. If I read section 7 correctly, that counts as a "condition imposed on you". So really you lose all rights to using that code?

      Let's look at that again:

      If, for any reason, conditions are imposed on you that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not distribute the Program at all.

      Though IANAL, the second "distribute" seems to be in the same context as the first. That is, if you can't distribute in some context without violating the license, you can't distribute in that context at all. I don't think the "at all" is intended to mean "in any context".

      Perhaps a lawyer could clarify this.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Here's an example. The US government probably prevents you from selling your open source software to Cuba or Iran. If I read section 7 correctly, that counts as a "condition imposed on you". So really you lose all rights to using that code?

      No, because the GPL doesn't oblige you to sell or otherwise distribute software to Cuba or Iran, so a law prohibiting you from doing so does not conflict with your obligations under the GPL. This isn't difficult.

      Now if the law did permit you to distribute the binary code to Cuba but not the source then effectively the section would prohibit you from distributing just the binary to Cuba, but wouldn't stop you distributing it elsewhere.

      Next question?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bradley (2330)

        What if I'm in the Canada, and buy (from a US company) a GPL program which comes with a written offer to provide the source. Then a month I move to Cuba, and send a letter to the US company asking them to please send me the source (including proof of purchase, and cash to cover costs of copying and sending the source code back to me)

        What does the US company do now?

        I'm not a lawyer, and for all I know US law deals with this sort of situation. But assume that it doesn't (and assume that I can't, for some othe

    • Legal documents aren't inherently perfect just because it's intended that they be perfect. Legalese is "code" intended to solve a problem just as surely as anything written in COBOL; legalese can have bugs in it, too.

    • The US government probably prevents you from selling your open source software to Cuba or Iran. If I read section 7 correctly, that counts as a "condition imposed on you". So really you lose all rights to using that code?

      No, because the only way you lose rights given by the GPL (which are not necessary to use code, anyway) is if the conditions "contradict the conditions of this License". Since the GPL does not require you to sell (or even give) software to anyone, rules which prohibit you from selling softw

    • Re:Say It Ain't So (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Jimmy_B (129296) <slashdot&jimrandomh,org> on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:02PM (#27080765) Homepage

      Here's an example. The US government probably prevents you from selling your open source software to Cuba or Iran. If I read section 7 correctly, that counts as a "condition imposed on you". So really you lose all rights to using that code?

      You have misread this section. Having a condition imposed on you which prevents you from to distributing to a specific party does not prevent you from fulfilling the conditions of the license, because the license does not obligate you to distribute the program to anyone; rather, the GPL gives the conditions you must follow when you do distribute the program. Since US export restrictions do not prevent you from fulfilling the terms of the GPL when you export to a non-restricted country, the fact that there are parties which you can't distribute the program to is irrelevant.

      Note, however, that only a government can enforce export restrictions; the GPL forbids you from taking on that responsibility yourself. So if you send a GPL'ed program to someone in Europe, they could legally send that program to someone in Cuba, and the GPL would forbid you from interfering. If the US were to pass a law which said that you couldn't export something that could possibly be re-exported to a sanctioned country, then that would be a problem for the GPL, but to my knowledge no such law exists.

      Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.

    • A few thoughts here.

      The GPL doesn't force you to distribute your source code unless you've distributed a derived work (ie: binary executable).

      In other words when you distribute anything based on the GPL, you distribute ALL of your work, holding nothing back.

      Its still your right to not distribute anything

      To give a further example.
      If I've built some killer utility application, and I decide I want to licence it under the GPL I can.

      A friend comes to be, lets call him Adam, and he asks for the software, since he

    • by ultranova (717540)

      Here's an example. The US government probably prevents you from selling your open source software to Cuba or Iran. If I read section 7 correctly, that counts as a "condition imposed on you". So really you lose all rights to using that code?

      No. After all, you have no duty under the GPL to distribute to Cuba or Iran in the first place. The GPL only states under what conditions such distribution must occur if it occurs: you must give them the source code, which stays under the GPL, so they have all the same r

  • What TomTom (and others) need to do is start using EXT2/3 on their external cards and then distribute Fuse with their software. This will force FAT and with that Microsoft tech slowly but surely out of the market.

    What do you think will happen when all external media starts using alternative formatting?

    • Absolutely nothing will happen, because either consumers won't buy devices that don't use FAT, or they'll have the proprietary apps needed already installed so there's no reason for Microsoft to add support for more filesystems.
    • What do you think will happen when all external media starts using alternative formatting?

      Microsoft to start filing patent lawsuits against users of the EXT 2/3/4 file systems.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:51PM (#27080589)

      What TomTom (and others) need to do is start using EXT2/3 on their external cards and then distribute Fuse with their software.

      No, the easy way out here is to not use long filenames. The patents is not about FAT, but about long filenames on FAT. If they need long filenames, distribute it as an tar file or loop back-file system file with a short name.

    • What will happen? Massive incompatibilities between device makers on either side of this war. The only solution is for consumers to install the EXT2 driver on their Windows PC, which is asking a lot for most people (really, I am not kidding, it is asking a lot).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ion.simon.c (1183967)

        The only solution is ... to install [software] ... which is asking a lot for most people (really, I am not kidding, it is asking a lot).

        My father has a Zune (one of the flash-memory models). To use the device on a particular machine, one must insert the Zune software disc and install the Zune software on an internet-connected machine. The software *must* call home before use; this installation *can not* happen on an offline machine. Also, one cannot drag and drop media to the Zune, one *must* install the Zune software.

        The iPod similarly requires one to install iTunes before using it with a PC. (Granted, this can be an offline install, so ye

    • What do you think will happen when all external media starts using alternative formatting?

      That won't happen because Microsoft controls most of the PC market and they won't support anything that threatens any part of their monopoly. Try mounting a HFS volume on an out-of-the-box Windows system.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      What TomTom (and others) need to do is start using EXT2/3 on their external cards and then distribute Fuse with their software.

      FUSE for Windows doesn't exist. Someone claims to have one but isn't releasing it. Don't know or much care, since there's not a lot I can do about it. There is an Ext2 "IFS" (installable filesystem?) driver package for Windows; it makes Windows XP far crashier than it already is. There is also an Ext2 access program which I found to not be able to access filesystems I was trying to read at all.

  • by pembo13 (770295) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:42PM (#27080453) Homepage

    The guys over at the Linux Action show (in their last episode) seem to adamantly think that this lawsuit has nothing to do with Linux. Jeremy Allison is probably a pretty jaded individual at this point (and rightly so), so having the view of someone else more familiar with these legal quagmires may be helpful.

  • UDF (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tzot (834456)

    So, is UDF an acceptable replacement for FAT (FAT32) filesystems on CF, SD etc devices?

    I think it's not patented (but ICBW) and I believe (but ICBW again) Windows has the ability to read/write UDF filesystems.

    • by ericrost (1049312)

      Wish I had mod points, that's an excellent idea! Its an ISO standard (not that that means anything anymore) but should be unencumbered.

  • by cyphercell (843398) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @01:46PM (#27080503) Homepage Journal
    "There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others." Niccolo Machiavelli The escalation is not all Microsoft's. GPLv2 is proof that the FSF was looking forward to this scenario.
  • by MarkvW (1037596) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:24PM (#27081069)

    If Microsoft wins, it sucks for Tom Tom and it creates FUD. That's bad, but not too bad. Microsoft still has to sue everybody violating its software patent.

    But if Microsoft loses because the Court rejects the concept of software patents a'la Bilski, then Microsoft is royally screwed because if it sues anybody else over a software patent, that defendant can argue that Microsoft can't argue software patents anymore because they already fully fairly and finally litigated the issue against Tom Tom and they lost. They don't get to relitigate the same issue all over again.

    You can see why this is HUGE for Microsoft. If they win, they get some money from Tom Tom and they put a scare into the Linux community. If they lose because their software patents are no good, then Microsoft's whole software patent edifice is gravely jeopardized. Microsoft will really fight this hard.

    Tom Tom is really vulnerable because the GPS market is slammed in this economy. I suspect that Microsoft is betting that they'll give up. The Linux community ought to prop up Tom Tom with legal and technical support--at least on the software patent theory.

    Microsoft's invasion should be defended at the beaches. They should be thrown back into the sea before they create more FUD!

     

  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Thursday March 05, 2009 @02:51PM (#27081461)
    Wasn't that what Microsoft said about the Windows anti-trust lawsuits?

The world is no nursery. - Sigmund Freud

Working...