Microsoft,TomTom Settle Patent Dispute, but What Does It Mean?


When Microsoft filed a patent infringement suit against GPS maker TomTom, it was the first time the software juggernaut had ever proactively sought to protect its patent portfolio beyond making veiled threats. Because the suit involved how TomTom implemented portions of the Linux operating system, some open source enthusiasts thought Microsoft was bent on destroying Linux after all.


Monday, the parties announced they had settled the dispute. Forbes reports:

The two companies did not disclose the terms of the settlement, but said that TomTom will remove the functionality that pertains to Microsoft's two file management system patents from all of its products. It will also pay an undisclosed amount...


CNET News writer Ina Fried points out that the settlement gives TomTom patent coverage that complies with its obligations under the GNU General Public License and protects TomTom's customers from liability while the company removes the file management system functionality from its products. At the same time, though, questions still remain as to what the settlement means regarding how Microsoft will interact with other Linux users.


On that question, Linux distributor Red Hat's legal team issued the following statement:

[W]ithout a judicial decision, the settlement does not demonstrate that the claims of Microsoft were valid. Patent litigation is a difficult process, and there are many reasons besides the merits of the case that a defendant such as TomTom might have chosen to settle in the present economic environment.