posted by Jordan Spencer Cunningham on Wed 29th Apr 2009 04:08 UTC
IconThe Open Innovation Network has found a few of Microsoft's patents in dealing with the past TomTom/FAT case a bit fishy and have therefore submitted them for review of prior-art to the Linux community at large.

Though the suit between Microsoft and TomTom was finally settled not too long ago, now there is speculation on the validity of Microsoft's patent claims. OIN, with the help of the Software Freedom Law Center, has established a program called "Linux Defenders" whose main goal is to "make prior art more readily accessible to patent and trademark office examiners." The program is designed to provide this prior art in order to reduce the amount of patent trolls as well as to protect Linux or any Linux-relations from legal danger to do with patents (hence the name). This program goes hand-in-hand with the Peer-to-Patent program, which is how OIN intends to investigate and discover if these patents truly are negligible.

Using the Post-Issue Peer-to-Patent program, members of the entire community at large, whether lawyers or no, can help review documents as well as submit more information for prior art on the patents.

We're inviting the community to come in and contribute prior art so that we can see if relevant art exists to request a reexamination of the patents for purpose of reevaluting claims. Significant prior art has already been identified concerning these patents, and this will enhance and expand upon that evidence.

--OIN CEO Keith Bergelt

The U.S. patents in question related to the FAT filesystem were 5579517, 5758352, and 6256642, and have already been posted on the Peer-to-Patent website. Depending on how much prior art is submitted and how quickly the work is done, it is possible that the United States Patent Office could negate these patents as early as the fourth quarter this year. If the Linux community ends up "winning" this round, it's doubtful that Microsoft will be taken in another counter-suit.

It's been a bit scary for Linux since Microsoft sued TomTom over these patents; the company's been tummy-aching about supposed patents that Linux violates for years, so who knew if they were going to sue beyond TomTom? I'm of the opinion that these patents ought to be negated; this would give the community more confidence and hopefully dispel what fears that've been established due to the said patents, and it would also hopefully prevent Microsoft from suing any others who supposedly infringe on their patents (though that's not likely at the moment, anyway). Whatever happens, the Peer-to-Patent program has a lot of promise to lead to less patent trolling in times to come as well as the negation of many ridiculous patents already established-- a sort of "Tearing Down the Berlin Wall" effect. They ought to also let bygones be bygones and not start up a new round of suage (pardon the nonexistent word) as that just hurts feelings and breaks open wounds that've been healing the past month. No need to do that.

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