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Linux companies sign Microsoft patent protection pacts

In Microsoft vs. TomTom, Microsoft is suing TomTom in part because the guys from Redmond claim that TomTom’s use of Linux in its navigation devices has violated three of its file-system related patents. One reason why Microsoft feels it can do this is that it already has patent cross licensing agreements covering these patents with other Linux-using companies.

I dug this up during an e-mail discussion with Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing, Gutierrez said, “We have a history of licensing the patents in this case through patent cross licensing agreements with other leaders in the car navigation space, including Kenwood, Alpine and Pioneer, and through our FAT LFN (File Allocation Table/Long File Name) patent licensing program, where we have 18 licensees to date.” This is being done under Microsoft’s FAT LFN File System Licensing Program.

When asked specifically if “there are companies using Linux and open-source software, which have signed FAT patent cross-licensing agreements, such as the ones, which TomTom has refused to agree to?” Gutierrez replied, “Yes, other companies have signed FAT patent licenses, both in the context of patent cross licensing agreements and other licensing arrangements.”

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