While reaction to Microsoft's settlement with TomTom was varied on Monday, there seemed to be a consensus that it will do little to settle the many questions related to whether Linux infringes on Microsoft's intellectual property.
Attorney James Gatto, the leader of the intellectual property section at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, said the quick settlement in the case may have as much to do with a pragmatic business decision by TomTom as it does with the legal merits of Microsoft's case. Complex litigation, such as the patent suit and countersuit in this case, could easily add up to $10 million to $15 million in costs, Gatto said.
"I don't think this answers any questions in terms of whether Microsoft's patents in any way cover Linux," Gatto said. Microsoft has long asserted that various implementations of Linux do infringe on its intellectual property and has struck a number of patent deals with companies that either distribute Linux or use it in their products.
The TomTom case, however, marked the first time that Microsoft had made those allegations in court papers.
Open-source pioneer Bruce Perens criticized the settlement, saying that it may instill fear in other companies that are using embedded Linux and thus have something of a chilling effect.
"What strikes me is the un-justice of it all," said Perens, who is the chief executive of open-source software development company Kiloboot. "Microsoft's patents (in the TomTom case) are not innovative, yet TomTom is forced to pay for the patents when a court would probably find them invalid. But rather than spend the money to prove the patents are invalid, because they probably can't afford to go to court and fight it, TomTom licenses the patents."
Gatto said that Microsoft's TomTom move doesn't necessarily mean the company is ready to go to war with Linux. … Read more