posted by Thom Holwerda on Mon 30th Mar 2009 21:19 UTC
IconNavigation device maker TomTom and Microsoft have resolved their patent dispute by entering into a settlement agreement out-of-court. The outcome of the agreement is that TomTom will license the infringed patents, but that they will remove the encumbered code from their implementation of the Linux kernel within two years.

In February, news got out that Microsoft had sued TomTom because the navigation company had infringed upon a number of patents, including a few that were related to FAT. Since TomTom uses the Linux kernel, many in the open source community feared that this was just a preliminary to an all-out attack against Linux. Microsoft, however, insisted that the lawsuit had nothing to do with open source in general, but was just about TomTom violating a few patents that other companies license from Microsoft.

TomTom didn't just wait it out, and soon countersued Microsoft over a number of patents the Redmond giant allegedly violated with its Microsoft Streets and Trips. TomTom also joined the Open Invention Network organisation which maintains a portfolio of defensive patents which could be used to defend Linux in the case of a patent lawsuit against the open source kernel.

The outcome of the settlement is that TomTom will license the infringed patents from Microsoft, but that they will remove the affected code from their products within two years, ensuring that TomTom remains compliant with the GPLv2. Between then and now, Microsoft will not sue TomTom users. "This agreement puts an end to the litigation between our two companies," TomTom IP director Peter Spours says, "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."

InfoWorld adds to the report by stating that Microsoft will not license the four patents put forth by TomTom; exactly how that situation will turn out remains to be seen.

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