Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2003/12/04/ms_tightens_ip_grip/

MS tightens IP grip on Cleartype and FAT- calls it liberalisation

Pay for WHAT? No, pay for FAT...

By John Lettice

Posted in Software, 4th December 2003 14:40 GMT

Microsoft has "announced expanded access to extensive intellectual property portfolio", it trumpets proudly here, while over here one of Microsoft's many lawyers explains why protecting IP is the lifeblood of the industry. But, pray tell, what IP treasures is it that Microsoft is now generously licensing?

Well there's ClearType, a Microsoft display technology that is not viewed as entirely defensible IP in at least some circles, then there's FAT. WHAT? Yes, that's right, FAT. Not FAT32, not NTFS, good old FAT. Now, like us you might think that a: nobody much can surely want FAT these days and b: it's not exactly difficult to get hold of it anyway. Any number of disk tools from any number of vendors will produce you a FAT format device and it's really, really a stretch to think of a situation where you'd be inconvenienced by a vendor not having access to FAT. Not right now, anyway.

Nevertheless, here we go, Microsoft's wondrous new IP licensing programme proposes two licenses for the FAT file system, as follows:

license for removable solid state media manufacturers to preformat the media, such as compact flash memory cards, to the Microsoft FAT file system format, and to preload data onto such preformatted media using the Microsoft FAT file system format. Pricing for this license is US$0.25 per unit with a cap on total royalties of $250,000 per manufacturer.

- A license for manufacturers of certain consumer electronics devices. Pricing for this license is US$0.25 per unit for each of the following types of devices that use removable solid state media to store data: portable digital still cameras; portable digital video cameras; portable digital still/video cameras; portable digital audio players; portable digital video players; portable digital audio/video players; multifunction printers; electronic photo frames; electronic musical instruments; and standard televisions. Pricing for this license is US$0.25 per unit with a cap on total royalties of $250,000 per licensee. Pricing for other device types can be negotiated with Microsoft.

So if we understand this correctly, Microsoft would like manufacturers of removable solid state storage to give it 25c a pop for the privilege of preformatting their devices with FAT, and while it's about it, the company intends to extend its IP tentacles into a wide variety of up-and-coming consumer electronics devices, with lawyers shuffling behind it.. Jim Gutstke, marketing GM of happy FAT licensee Lexar Media, tells us that "Lexar Media is glad to support Microsoft's goal of standardizing the industry around the FAT file system, which will further ensure interoperability of our memory cards, cameras and other consumer devices." So yes indeed, that is precisely what Microsoft intends to do with its tentacles. Using FAT.

You will find further information on MS IP licensing, including FAT patent references, here. And you can get some context on Microsoft's interpretation of expressions like 'liberal new IP licensing policy' here. ®