FAT File System

I have heard from a number of sources that Microsoft is suing TomTom for use of the patented Microsoft FAT file system. TomTom is a maker of GPS devices. They use Linux as the embedded operating system for these devices. Linux in turns supports both the FAT file system, and the FAT long file name format. These are patented technologies that Microsoft is working to protect.

Microsoft has 18 different licenses related to the FAT file system. However it is not a simple solution for TomTom to license the technology from Microsoft. This is because the license may violate the GPL license under which they use Linux.

Microsoft’s FAT licensing program charges 25 cents per unit. The maximum cost per manufacturer is $250k. These prices are per terms previously listed on Microsoft’s web site. However this information has suspiciously disappeared recently from Microsoft. That might have something to do with this dispute between Microsoft and TomTom.

This lawsuit appears to be Microsoft taking a stand against Linux use of their patents without license. TomTom is probably a high profile and lucrative user of Linux. There are people on the free software side that consider Microsoft for making this move. However from a purely legal standpoint, I bet they have a case.

Normally I mention specifics tools from Microsoft here on my blog. However I thought I would mention the FAT file system legal issues here because it is relatively current news. The FAT file system itself is an older technology. I believe it had been improved when it moved to a 32 bit implementation. However the implementation, and I presume the patents, are nothing new.