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Microsoft & TomTom settle patent lawsuits

Posted at 30 March 2009 19:21 CEST by Jared Newman

Microsoft put to rest its patent dispute with TomTom today, and the GPS maker dropped its countersuit accordingly.

In the settlement, TomTom agreed to pay Microsoft for using eight patents that it allegedly violated. Microsoft will also be covered — with no payment required — under four patents from TomTom’s countersuit. The coverage lasts five years for past and future products. A press release from Microsoft says details on the financial terms won’t be disclosed.

Microsoft filed the lawsuit in late February, alleging that TomTom violated eight patents in its GPS navigation devices. The patents included "Vehicle Computer System with Open Platform Architecture," "Method and System for Generating Driving Directions" and "Vehicle Computer System with Wireless Internet Connectivity," plus others pertaining to file naming and management, PC integration and graphic interfaces.

The lawsuit, and the part about file naming in particular, was big news in the open source community, because the same filesystem is used in Linux. Observers noted that this was the first lawsuit Microsoft has filed over implementation of the Linux kernel, despite claiming previously that Linux violates 235 patents. The main issue was whether TomTom could appease Microsoft without violating the licensing agreement for Linux, which doesn’t allow for cross-licensing of patents. It seems TomTom has accomplished this by removing the file naming functionality from its Linux code, even though TomTom is paying to license the patent.

TomTom’s director of IP strategy and transactions, Peter Spours, said the agreement complies with obligations under the General Public License Version 2, "and thus reaffirms our commitment to the open source community."

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