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Microsoft and TomTom settle 'Linux' kerfuffle

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Microsoft and TomTom have settled the much-discussed patent infringement suits they tossed at each other earlier this year.

As Microsoft announced this morning, the two companies have entered a five-year agreement that will see GPS maker TomTom pay Microsoft for coverage under the five car navigation and three file management patents cited in the February suit brought by Redmond.

Famously, Microsoft's allegations over the three file management patents involved TomTom's use of the Linux kernel, and according to Redmond, the settlement provides TomTom with coverage under these three patents in a way that's compliant with TomTom's obligations under the General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2).

TomTom has also agreed to tweak its products so that they no longer contain certain tools related to a pair of those file management patents. According to Microsoft, the "FAT LFN" patents "enable efficient naming, organizing, storing, and accessing of file data." TomTom will remove (alleged) infringing technology within two years.

The settlement also provides Microsoft with coverage under the four patents included in the suit brought by TomTom. But this does not involve Microsoft making payments to TomTom. The agreement covers both past and future sales of US products relevant to the two suits.

"We are pleased TomTom has chosen to resolve the litigation amicably by entering into a patent agreement," reads a canned statement from Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing.

"We were able to work with TomTom to develop a patent agreement that addresses their needs and ours in a pragmatic way. When addressing IP infringement issues, there are two possible paths: securing patent coverage or not using the technology at issue. Through this agreement, TomTom is choosing a combination of both paths to meet the unique needs of its business, and we are glad to help them do so."

TomTom director of IP strategy and transaction Peter Spours wasn't quite so verbose. "This agreement puts an end to the litigation between our two companies," he said in his own canned statement. "It is drafted in a way that ensures TomTom’s full compliance with its obligations under the GPLv2, and thus reaffirms our commitment to the open source community."

Microsoft sued TomTom in late February in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and before the International Trade Commission (ITC), claiming that the Dutch GPS manufacturer was infringing on eight Redmond patents but refused to sit down for licensing talks.

Then, on March 20, TomTom countersued in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, saying that Microsoft’s Streets and Trips products infringed on four TomTom patents for vehicle navigation software. ®

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