We got us a three ring circus, folks. in the center ring is the M$ /TomTom lawsuit. TomTom doesn't have much money, so no doubt M$ was counting on them just rolling over, boosting their patent claims. Keep going after small fish, and any big ones? Tie them up in court with motions and delays, just long enough to crack the FOSS movement. TomTom, however, decided to fight, and the FOSS community looks out for our friends. The FAT patent (as well as support for long filenames in FAT32...I mean, are you fucking shitting me?) at the core of this whole thing is as good as dead. Jeremy Allison, developer of SAMBA and another open source evangelist, revealed why there hasn't been a lawsuit against companies using FAT32 and Linux in the same device -- M$ and the companies signed back door, secret cross-licensing deals regarding the infringing patents that paid up with the promise of no lawsuits. This was hushed up with NDA's.
The long and short of this is that the Free Software Foundation and the Software Freedom Law Center never knew of any of this. It certainly creates an interesting scenaro -- if any company licenses a GPL'ed product or buys a license to incorporate into a GPL'ed product without sharing those rights with everyone, under Section 7 of GPLv2 (the one governing the Linux kernel), the company loses ALL rights to distribute the product, and don't think the FSF and SFLC won't immediately make them cease and decist. (This also fits in with my cynical worldview. How many "FOSS friendly" companies have been lying to us?) The Novell deal was intended to put that out in the open -- to show companies could cross-license without violating the GPL. GPLv3 put an end to that (the Linux kernel is still v2, but most of the supporting software, interfaces, etc. are v3, so cheating is still out of the question). TomTom publicly told M$ to shove their deals, so M$ is dragging them to court. Basically, they will have to enter a cross-licensing deal, violating the GPL, or stand firm, and owe M$ a ton of cash. Or, they could just abandon Linux and go with M$ embedded firmware * wink wink *.
Mr. Peabody, please set the Wayback Machine for 1999. That was when Unisys, realizing that their LZW lossless file compression system was used in .GIF's all over the Internet, changed the licensing terms and started enforcing their patents. Many simple end users switched to JPEG (which Unisys would later unsuccessfully claim was covered under LZW as well), and the Open Source community developed Portable Network Graphics files, creating the "Burn all GIFs!" movement. Unisys lost, the patent expired in 2003, and Unisys is a pariah in the software industry -- no one wants to work with them at all (even FOSSers. Unisys has tried to build bridges to the Open Source community, but the "once bitten" rule is coming into play). Companies that want to avoid trouble with FAT32 have several alternatives in the Open Source community, almost all of which are journaled while FAT is not. Basically, Linux and Open Source have become too widespread. Once, you might have been ghettoizing yourself by going with FOSS, but not anymore. This is a very dangerous gamble. M$ is seeing too much erosion, seeing as how they are lobbying for companies to bring back the Handheld PC's like the Jornada which ran WinCE (now Windows Mobile). Google's Linux-based Android is making a lot of noise, and drowning out the WinMobile cell phones, so M$ wants faster evolution for WinMobile, and to try leveraging that to netbooks. Why would I give up my netbook running a full blown distro that anything I load on my tower I can load on it in favor of a netbook (uses ARM architecture, which is the only good thing I can say about it) that still needs specialized applications? I'll go back to my Cloudbook before getting a WinMobile-based notebook. So...you know...good luck, let me know how that works out.
In ring number two is Scott Harris, who, with his partners, tried to patent a business paradigm for selling software to customers. The Federal Court, citing Bilski, told him pure business methods are not patentable so take a hike. They are preparing to appeal to the Supreme Court, which recent rulings have shown thinks the Patent Office is not doing its job and is granting too many patents to things that aren't patentable. Good luck, let me know how that works out.
in ring number three, SCO finally filed its appeal of its court loss. They actually filed it a while ago, but the Court Of Appeals told them "UR DOING IT WRONG." For example, they didn't specify why they needed oral arguments. SCO fixed that by saying oral arguments are needed because this case is complicated, and they wanted people there to answer any questions the judges have. Assuming they have any questions, APA2 was pretty clear. Appeals are for when the judge ignores evidence, not because you want a legal mulligan. And offering oral arguments to stretch out trial time to a court interested in speed and efficiency? Yeah. Good luck, let me know how that works out.
The TomTom lawsuit is the guinea pig, the canary in the coal mine, the Judas goat. If TomTom falls, M$ has a clearer shot at keeping the public beholded to their illegal monopoly. These others are unlikely to win, but could alter the backdrop if they do.
FREEDOM! WE'RE GONNA RING THE BELL!