Linked by Eugenia Loli on Fri 13th Jan 2006 00:53 UTC
Microsoft On Tuesday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) reaffirmed Microsoft's FAT patents (covering the File Allocation Table), but sources close to the Public Patent Foundation indicate that this is not the end of the story of efforts to overthrow these patents. According to sources cited by Linux-Watch.com, the re-issuance of the patent was based on the examiner's having accepted an argument previously advanced by Microsoft, and previously rejected.
Order by: Score:
It probably sounds like a movie cliche
by Ronald Vos on Fri 13th Jan 2006 01:06 UTC
Ronald Vos
Member since:
2005-07-06

But it appears 'there is always hope' ;)

Reply Score: 1

Keep sluggin' til the bell rings
by Sphinx on Fri 13th Jan 2006 02:11 UTC
Sphinx
Member since:
2005-07-09

I admire their tenacity.

Reply Score: 1

C'mon, know when you're beaten...
by tomcat on Fri 13th Jan 2006 02:34 UTC
tomcat
Member since:
2006-01-06

I'm no great fan of FAT (or LFN/SFN hybrid storage). But there was no prior art, and PubPat failed to show why the patent shouldn't be awarded. So, unless you have an appetite for disappointment, I'd consider this one a hopeless cause. MS won. Get over it.

Reply Score: 3

Sphinx Member since:
2005-07-09

I thought CPM might qualify. Didn't they deny because of prior art once?

Reply Score: 1

BrianH Member since:
2005-07-06

They did deny because of prior art once (that is the argument they are talking about), but it wasn't CPM. CPM had a different file system, as I recall.

Reply Score: 1

Jeeeb Member since:
2005-11-12

I thought CPM might qualify. Didn't they deny because of prior art once?
The patent is on vfat so no CPM does not qualify nor does anything else.

Reply Score: 1

dylansmrjones Member since:
2005-10-02

Actually there is. *cough*IBM*cough*

Reply Score: 2

Googlesaurus Member since:
2005-10-19

"Actually there is. *cough*IBM*cough*"

Actually IBM wouldn't have a prayer of fighting this one. They didn't invent it, and don't own it. Even if MS didn't invent it, they damn sure own the rights.

This patent was filed many months ago. IBM chose to not contest a single sentence of it. If they would have had a valid claim, they would have certainly taken steps to block it. (cheaper to block it, than fight it in court)
*cough*

Reply Score: 1

Hands Member since:
2005-06-30

Actually, IBM would have a prayer of fighting this one. Prior art isn't the only reason for invalidating a patent or royalty claims. IBM has a Linux product which they probably want to protect. It may not be for altruistic reasons, but IBM does have some interest in the well-being of Linux.

The fact that MS allowed FAT to become widely adopted by various industries before they started demanding royalties means that even without prior art there other legal protections for those who were using FAT before MS asked for royalties.

Reply Score: 1

walterbyrd Member since:
2005-12-31

>>IBM has a Linux product which they probably want to protect. <<

IBM does not have a linux distro, or any other linux "product" that I know of. IBM does make a lot of money supporting the linux products of other companies.

Reply Score: 1

Hands Member since:
2005-06-30

I didn't in any way state that IBM has a Linux distro. Just because they don't package their own distro is irrelevant. I would consider support a product. Whether you do or not is semantics. The point is that IBM derives revenue from supporting Linux.

Reply Score: 1

Wrawrat Member since:
2005-06-30

Interest in the well-being of Linux, true. But interest in VFAT? IBM are making business by selling servers and services/solutions, a market who couldn't care less of that archaic filesystem. Remember they sold their PC division, so they couldn't care less of home users, those who are likely to use FAT.

Not a long time ago, IBM were infamous for their business practices. Now they are seen as benevolent?

Reply Score: 1

Wrawrat Member since:
2005-06-30

For some reason, some people seem to believe that IBM is a white horse of kindness and generosity. In reality, their patent folio is huge enough for hurting Microsoft as well as the american open-source community, for who they have no obligation. It's a corporation, not a foundation.

But even if they were, why would they bother? LFN for FAT is a technology used on desktops and flash media. Any competent admin would laugh at the idea of using FAT on the hard drives of their servers. Removable drives like USB keys are useful, but there are alternatives on non-Windows servers. Doesn't mean they wouldn't, but it doesn't really concern them.

On the bright side, the patent could force people and/or companies at investigating alternatives, or even leading to a brand new solution suited at flash devices instead of some old relic.

Reply Score: 1

dylansmrjones Member since:
2005-10-02

A multibillion company being a white horse of kindness and generosity?

I don't think so. IBM is only kind when they gain from it. That's at least what I would expect from any company.

Reply Score: 1

walterbyrd Member since:
2005-12-31

>>But there was no prior art<<

There wasn't?

"Microsoft's FAT patent (5,579, 517) is invalid because of three prior art patents, filed by IBM and Xerox in 1988, 1989 and 1990. Microsoft was not granted '517 until 1996."

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/04/15/fat_patent_review/

Reply Score: 2

Jeeeb Member since:
2005-11-12

That would be great if the patent was on FAT, but it is on the system used for storing long file names in vfat.

Reply Score: 1

rcsteiner Member since:
2005-07-12

No prior art? PC/GEOS has stored long filenames on FAT16 partitions since at least 1990. Is it not a similar thing?

Reply Score: 1

My only question is...
by joelito_pr on Fri 13th Jan 2006 02:55 UTC
joelito_pr
Member since:
2005-07-07

Why the heck were they siiting on their a***s for all these years? Why not filing the patent before?

Reply Score: 1

RE: My only question is...
by CrimsonScythe on Fri 13th Jan 2006 04:40 UTC in reply to "My only question is..."
CrimsonScythe Member since:
2005-07-10

Most likely because they would be able to ensure that the file system was widely adopted for all kinds of devices, thus ensuring a solid stranglehold on the market. Claiming that this is just a defensive measure doesn't hold either, since they're already collecting royalties on the patent. I really can't see any other reason for delaying for so long.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: My only question is...
by dylansmrjones on Fri 13th Jan 2006 04:47 UTC in reply to "RE: My only question is..."
dylansmrjones Member since:
2005-10-02

The question is if it will hold up in court.
That kind of practice has been stopped in court before.

But again, it's merely an issue in North America.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: My only question is...
by hornett on Fri 13th Jan 2006 09:23 UTC in reply to "RE: My only question is..."
hornett Member since:
2005-09-19

I don't pretend to understand the US Patent system, but it certainly seems unfair for the to allow a patent to be issued after it has become a widely used standard by third parties.

To be fair to MS, they apprently have tried to patent it previously, and I don't blame them for trying again. It is the patent office that I feel has acted badly here.

Reply Score: 4

RE[3]: My only question is...
by walterbyrd on Fri 13th Jan 2006 13:24 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: My only question is..."
walterbyrd Member since:
2005-12-31

>
I don't pretend to understand the US Patent system, but it certainly seems unfair for the to allow a patent to be issued after it has become a widely used standard by third parties.
<

I think there is a concept in USA law (probably derived from UK law) called "Latches." The idea behind latches is: if you have a complaint, you are required to take action within a reasonable time, you can not just sit around and for a more opportune time.

For example, if somebody is building on your property, and you know it, you have to take action right away. You can't just wait until the building has finished.

In theory, the law is supposed to provide justice, not a tool to beat up your competitors.

Of course, the law doesn't usually apply to msft.

Reply Score: 2

Samba vs FAT ???
by elsewhere on Fri 13th Jan 2006 03:14 UTC
elsewhere
Member since:
2005-07-13

From the article:Specifically, these file system patents impact programs like Samba, which make it possible for Linux systems to have read and write access to Windows FAT-based file systems, and vice-versa.

I don't quite get this part, Samba is a network level service, it's not accessing a FAT filesystem directly, it's doing it through Windows own netbios subsystem.

I can understand potential licensing concerns over FAT support in the kernel for reading local FAT volumes, or I can understand arguably potential concerns over Samba reverse-engineering proprietary MS network protocols, but I don't see how the two are connected.

Am I missing something?

Reply Score: 4

RE: Samba vs FAT ???
by Jeeeb on Fri 13th Jan 2006 14:32 UTC in reply to "Samba vs FAT ???"
Jeeeb Member since:
2005-11-12

Am I missing something?
No but the articles original author is ;)

Reply Score: 1

RE: Samba vs FAT ???
by enahs on Fri 13th Jan 2006 15:03 UTC in reply to "Samba vs FAT ???"
enahs Member since:
2006-01-01

No, you're right. SMB abstracts the underlying filesystem, you could be writing to a stone tablet on the server and SMB access would be the same. The kernel is another story, and likely a target if MS goes offensive.

Reply Score: 1

Competition on a global level
by dylansmrjones on Fri 13th Jan 2006 03:33 UTC
dylansmrjones
Member since:
2005-10-02

If the patents are upheld, this would make it difficult, if not impossible, for GPLed software to access FAT file systems.

Well, not exactly. It just means USA will slip further behind in the global competition, since Europe and Asia will become the main centers for open source (even more than they already are).

[edit: fixed typo - 'ans' -> 'and']

Edited 2006-01-13 03:33

Reply Score: 1

Down with software patents.
by SEJeff on Fri 13th Jan 2006 14:11 UTC
SEJeff
Member since:
2005-11-05

Good, this would be a signifigant hurdle for Linux <---> Windows integration. Imagine plugging in your thumbdrive in linux and it doesn't work unless you recompile your kernel with a patent encumbered fat32 patch from some mirror in russia.

That would slow linux adoption for many users who might give it a casual try.

Reply Score: 2

I wish...
by Hands on Fri 13th Jan 2006 16:10 UTC
Hands
Member since:
2005-06-30

Personally, I would be thrilled if FAT could be replaced by something more capable such as ext2 or another open source file system. The performance and capabilities of FAT are horrible. The only justification of using it in many cases is Windows compatibility.

The biggest reason for companies to use FAT up till now has been that it was cheap and easy. MS wasn't demanding royalties, it is well documented, and it is easily recognized by the vast majority (if not all) desktop computers. Ext2 is freely available without any worries of royalties now or in the future. It is also well documented. And, there is a driver that could be adopted by practically anyone to allow for Ext2 to be recognized by all Windows NT/2k/XP computers. Some features may not be currently supported, but $250,000 (the maximum FAT royalty amount per year, and that's for only one company) should easily pay for the programming expertise needed to create a flawless driver starting with what has already been done.

Reply Score: 1

who needs it?
by hollovoid on Fri 13th Jan 2006 16:52 UTC
hollovoid
Member since:
2005-09-21

well, only thing I can think of is like digital cam/usb storage cards, but honestly I dont even use fat to swap files from linux to windows and vice versa, ntfs write is becoming much better, and windows can read/write to ext3 with the right driver, let them keep fat, we should just push for a open standard file system, and focus on making that compatible, instead of wondering if your favorite closed source solution is going to go away tomorrow.

as Hands also said, and the reality of it, Is fat really has no advantages over any newer file system, its just better known. Stop letting microsoft dictate what you do and move on when they make meaningless moves on dying technology.

Reply Score: 1

RE: who needs it?
by Hands on Fri 13th Jan 2006 18:20 UTC in reply to "who needs it?"
Hands Member since:
2005-06-30

Digital cameras and USB storage is actually a significant market. If MS were validated in a court of law in enforcing FAT royalties, the manufacturers of digital cameras and flash drives might just decide that they would prefer to pay the royalties rather than invest in a different solution. That would mean that products not paying royalties to MS would be locked out of a large market (at least in the U.S.). So, even if you don't use a FAT partition to swap files between Windows and Linux, you could be kept from using a digital camera with Linux entirely. USB storage can be reformatted, but what if you want to use that flash drive with a public computer at a library or university or even on a neighbor's PC?

There are possible ramifications of Linux not using FAT beyond the file system that's best for swapping files between Windows and Linux.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: who needs it?
by gplCop318 on Fri 13th Jan 2006 19:37 UTC in reply to "RE: who needs it?"
gplCop318 Member since:
2006-01-10

"products not paying royalties to MS would be locked out of a large market "

MS charges a quarter per device, I think I can swing a quarter...

Reply Score: 1

I Hope It Gets Reversed.
by Pelly on Fri 13th Jan 2006 17:27 UTC
Pelly
Member since:
2005-07-07

I sure hope they find a way to reverse this patent decision. I firmly believe that this is a potential legal precedent that may provide Microsoft with the ability to obtain future patents for things that are also considered common-use.

Microsoft attempted to patent & trademark the word, "Windows," in a previous battle with Linspire (then Lindows, Inc. and LindowsOS). When their attempt failed in U.S. Courts, Microsoft took the matter outside the U.S. and won a legal victory overseas. The non-U.S. decision had a direct impact on the name change to Linspire.

Now Microsoft has been granted a patent for the FAT File System by the U.S. Patent Office after a previous failure to obtain it.

I see this as the beginning of a long and bumpy ride as Microsoft will continue submitting patents requests for even more items that are common-use.

Why would a company do this? When a company enjoy's near-total monopolistic control over a lucrative market they'll do whatever they can to maintain that level of marketshare and control.

The goals, I feel, are to retain their marketshare while at the same time making it difficult or nearly impossible for users to use/purchase computers that do not have software & products from Microsoft.

My 2 cents.

Reply Score: 1

Too late
by Treza on Fri 13th Jan 2006 17:58 UTC
Treza
Member since:
2006-01-11

Maybe now it's time for IBM to patent the IBM PC, PC/XT and PC/AT computers and architectures ;-)

Reply Score: 1

yawn
by gplCop318 on Fri 13th Jan 2006 19:35 UTC
gplCop318
Member since:
2006-01-10

didnt we discuss this already ;)
samba and fat? samba aint got no fat so no worry there...
I dont think MS could ever stretch this to cover a OS accessing a FAT partition so I do not see this as anything to worry about. Why arent we being sued now for ntfs reading/writing if MS is just chomping at the bit to sue for FS access? I think MS can patent its "improvments" to fat but will never patent fat same as it can patent its implementation of SMB protocol but can never patent SMB.

FAT is a horrible FS that should of went away and if nothing else been replaced with HPFS!

Reply Score: 1

RE: yawn
by rcsteiner on Mon 16th Jan 2006 17:59 UTC in reply to "yawn"
rcsteiner Member since:
2005-07-12

I've never understood why Microsoft didn't use its own (well, Gordon Letwin's) HPFS filesystem in the Win9x variants. It's a decent enough filesystem, with a larger cache and faster CHKDSK it would have been a good upgrade from FAT16, and since low-level utilities had to change anyway to accomodate FAT32 and VFAT...

Oh well. We'll probably never know. :-)

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: yawn
by rcsteiner on Mon 16th Jan 2006 18:07 UTC in reply to "RE: yawn"
rcsteiner Member since:
2005-07-12