M$ has just filed a lawsuit against TomTom NV, makers of the car GPS unit, claiming that they violate eight of M$' patents. Three of them relate to how the unit interacts with the Linux OS that powers the device (TomTom and Garmin are based on Linux, Magellan is not, although TomTom does license some Windows code for its units). As far as I can tell, the infringement is not over Linux itself. The kernel isn't even mentioned in the complaint, just how it interacts. The keystone of the whole thing is the FAT file system. Not only was this patented waaaaaaaaay before the current standings on patenting (it's unlikely to survive a challenge now), but I would think, as it's FAT and not FAT32, that the patent has expired anyway. If not, I'm curious as to why.
M$ isn't saying if they'll file any more suits, but Horacio Gutierrez, M$' chief IP lawyer, says it is just a normal course of business lawsuit (read that, "See you real soon, Garmin") and are looking forward to a speedy resolution. TomTom, however, is digging in its heels. My guess is TomTom doesn't want to become the modern equivalent of EV1.
When M$ started throwing money towards Apache and trying for interoperability, a depressing number of people in the FOSS world applauded this and told me I should give M$ a break. "They've turned over a new leaf!" The head cheerleaders in this camp were the folks at The Linux ACTION! Show, a Linux podcast that is to Linux what Wizard is to comic books -- they are more interested in what is cool and braggable than what is actually good or important. tlAs even went so far as to slam Google for not supporting Open Source, since they had only one program, Google Earth, that was crossplatform. Ever hear of the Summer Of Code? Even though Linux is not directly involved in the lawsuit, several M$ friendly sites (yes, I'm looking at you, CNet) are FUD'ing up the reports by saying Linux is part of the charges. Gutierrez, in fact, didn't even mention Linux in the initial press conference, it didn't pop up until later. The press is making sure to highlight the connection. Uh, read the complaints. They are publicly available, you know. I can understand the general public not knowing this, but when your job is to report the truth, you are obligated to get your facts straight.
I'm guessing, much like M$' funding of the SCO lawsuits against Linux was an attempt to feel out patent law and how it would apply, this is another recon mission -- low risk, might even get some kind of settlement that can be built on, but enough to find out if using the courts against their enemies in this way is viable. It's a guinnea pig.
People have insisted that M$ is trying to get along with the Linux community and I shouldn't let my paranoia give them a bum rap. As a Korean vet once told me, "When you were in country, paranoia was just smart thinking."