Feeds

Microsoft FAT patent rejected - again

On a technicality

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The US Patent and Trademarks Office has thrown out two Microsoft patents on its FAT file system. The case had been raised by open source defenders who feared that Microsoft was preparing a legal offensive against Linux based on enforcement of intellectual property rights. But the Patent Office rejected the patents because of an administrative technicality - not because of prior art submitted by the F/OSS team.

In November 2003 Microsoft began to license its venerable FAT file system, written by Bill Gates himself for the original 1981 IBM PC. The file system was already in wide use in non-PC devices such as compact flash media used in digital cameras, so Microsoft was inviting vendors to pay for something that they already used for free. This alarmed open source advocates, who cannot use royalty-bearing patents with GPL software; Linux makes use of the FAT file system in the kernel. A non-profit group requested that Microsoft's claims for the patents be investigated.

The USPTO rejected one of the patents, (USPTO 5,579, 517, referred to as '517) in September 2004 in a preliminary ruling. Now it's struck down the other, on the grounds that it the six assignees names were incorrect.

"Microsoft has an opportunity to submit evidence in response to the examiner's request and remains optimistic that these issues will be resolved in its favor," said the Patent Office.

Back in March, Microsoft's chief attorney Brad Smith slammed the USPTO for lowering the quality of the patents it issued. But Microsoft had nicer things to say about the Office yesterday, commending it for upholding the patents' IP content.

The Public Patent Foundation, a non-profit, had argued that the two Microsoft patents were invalid because of three prior art patents, filed by IBM and Xerox in 1988, 1989 and 1990.

The IP issue remains a potent threat for Microsoft because of the very real difficulties that open source and free software developers have with royalty bearing patents. However, the difficulty of launching litigation means it's only really potent as a threat - like Mutually Assured Destruction, as we discussed here.

Earlier this year Microsoft's legal team advertised for patent attorneys, for which "no patent experience was necessary". ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder
And now a message from our sponsors: 'STFU or else'
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
Microsoft boots 1,500 dodgy apps from the Windows Store
DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! DEVELOPERS! Naughty, misleading developers!
Mozilla's 'Tiles' ads debut in new Firefox nightlies
You can try turning them off and on again
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Uber, Lyft and cutting corners: The true face of the Sharing Economy
Casual labour and tired ideas = not really web-tastic
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
prev story

Whitepapers

Top 10 endpoint backup mistakes
Avoid the ten endpoint backup mistakes to ensure that your critical corporate data is protected and end user productivity is improved.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Backing up distributed data
Eliminating the redundant use of bandwidth and storage capacity and application consolidation in the modern data center.
The essential guide to IT transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIOs automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.