Peter G (sinetimore) wrote,
Peter G

Not With A Bang, But A Whimper

Today, TomTom and M$ settled their patent disputes.  Both sides did.  Although the terms are not readily available yet, what I've seen so far is....

Well, officially, I have to applaud TomTom for not knuckling under and remaining GPL compliant.  They are happy with the settlement.  It's their money, if they don't want to spend it on litigation, they shouldn't have to.

Unofficially, I'm pissed.

TomTom is basically doing what Samba did.  M$ presented Samba with a list of the patents M$ had that Samba might be infringing on.  Jeremy Allison, head of the SAMBA project, basically said, "No problem, we can work around these," and Samba was re-engineered to work without any of these patents getting in the way.  TomTom is going to drop support for long file names.  You can read from VFAT with a long filename, but you can't save to it with a long filename.  8.3 is all they have.  Now, the internal file system is still fine, and can probably be switched to ext2 or something (and a driver to connect it to a Win machine?  No problem, ext2 is Open Source).  They have two years to remove these patents from their system.  M$, meanwhile, has five years to remove their infringing patent stuff from Streets And Maps.

So, it sure seems like a victory, right?  No.  Here's what I see:

1)  TomTom has to end support for an invalid patent.

2)  TomTom has two years to get rid of it.

3)  M$ gets access to TomTom technology for five years.

4)  TomTom pays M$ a licensing fee for the settlement.

5)  M$ doesn't pay a dime.


It is theorized that the license agreement, which supposedly won't violate the GPL, will just be another covenant not to sue, like what M$ ginned up with Novell (the Linux build used by TomTom is still GPL v2.0, so it can happen).  My guess is that TomTom's own patents were just as fragile as the VFAT patent, and faced with patent war MAD, the two sides shook hands so M$ doesn't have to lose its precious sabre for rattling.

I'm sorry, but this stinks.  It's like Babylon 5, where the Minbari are about to conquer Earth, and then surrender.  TomTom suddenly had more prior art than they knew what to do with, and the MoFo's on their side...wait...the MoFo's...lawyers for Novell, who entered into a covenant with M$ to get an unfair advantage over other companies using Linux....things that make you go, "Hmmmmmm...."

I can't really criticize.  It is TomTom's decision to make, and for all I know, this is on the up and up.  It is very strange for M$ to give up a fight before it even gets to court.  Another possibility is that M$ realized a bigger mistake -- they were suing TomTom over the long filenames provided by the Windows interface, not the TomTom firmware, and realized they didn't have a leg to stand on legal while TomTom had its counterclaims ready to go.  Or maybe it just validated the existence of the Open Invention Network.

All I know is this....

When TomTom filed its countersuits, I was suddenly jealous that I owned a Garmin instead of a TomTom.  Now?  I'm glad I never ditched the Garmin.
Tags: computers, digital rights, foss, haven't we suffered enough, hypocrisy, important life lessons, infernal gall, linux, open source, patent law, technology is a beautiful thing

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