October 5, 2005 11:36 AM PDT

Microsoft's Linux-related patents rejected

The U.S. Patent Office has rejected two Microsoft patents over the FAT file format, but the software maker said Wednesday that it's not ready to give up its battle to protect its widely used method for storing data.

The patent office delivered its ruling late last month but made it public this week. With one of the patents, the decision is what's considered a final rejection, while with another it's considered nonfinal. In both cases, Microsoft has the ability to pursue its claims further.

The rejections come after a re-examination of the patents was sought by the Public Patent Foundation, which argued that they were invalid because there was "prior art," that is, evidence that others had done similar work before Microsoft's patent application. A U.S. Patent Office examiner issued a preliminary rejection of one Microsoft patent in September 2004.

Though developed for Windows, the FAT format has become a common means of storing files on all manner of computers, as well as on removable flash memory cards used in digital cameras and other devices. It is also used by the open-source Samba software that lets Linux and Unix computers exchange data with Windows computers, and by Linux itself to read and write files on Windows hard drives.

There has been concern that if the FAT patents are upheld, Microsoft may claim that Linux infringes on Microsoft technology and will seek a royalty. Any monetary compensation could threaten the operating system, which under General Public License (GPL) terms may not be distributed if it contains patented technology that requires royalty payments.

A Microsoft representative said Wednesday that the company considers the latest rejections somewhat of a victory because the examiners have rejected the prior-art claims. Microsoft said the latest rejections are centered on how the inventor of the patents is listed.

"None of the prior art submitted by the Public Patent Foundation stood up under examination," Microsoft Director of Business Development David Kaefer said in a statement. "The issues that have come up in these re-examinations have nothing to do with (non-Microsoft) prior art. Instead, the issues involve a question over whom--at Microsoft--should be properly listed as an inventor."

A Public Patent Foundation representative was not immediately available for comment.

Microsoft announced plans to license the FAT format in December 2003, as part of a stepped-up intellectual-property licensing push. It announced at the time that flash memory seller Lexar Media was taking a license for its FAT format technology.

20 comments

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'nother misleading headline.
Is there *ANY* editorial oversite at CNET?
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
'nother misleading headline.
Is there *ANY* editorial oversite at CNET?
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another error
There's nothing in SAMBA that uses FAT. SAMABA use the native filesystem and SMB.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Another error
There's nothing in SAMBA that uses FAT. SAMABA use the native filesystem and SMB.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Reply Link Flag
FAT Developed For Windows?
So what is the next rewrite of history?

Qwerty developed for Keyboards!!!?
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No, QDOS...
The FAT filesystem was first released by Seattle
Computer Systems for QDOS -- a quasi-ripoff of
CP/M written for their 8086 computer kits -- in
1980. FAT is 25 years old and itself not
patentable.

Microsoft's patent claims all revolve around
using long filenames in a FAT filesystem that
wouldn't otherwise support it (they have 4
patents on that). It's the ability to use long
filenames on a FAT filesystem that they are
attempting to assert rights over.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Link Flag
No, QDOS...
The FAT filesystem was first released by Seattle
Computer Systems for QDOS -- a quasi-ripoff of
CP/M written for their 8086 computer kits -- in
1980. FAT is 25 years old and itself not
patentable.

Microsoft's patent claims all revolve around
using long filenames in a FAT filesystem that
wouldn't otherwise support it (they have 4
patents on that). It's the ability to use long
filenames on a FAT filesystem that they are
attempting to assert rights over.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Link Flag
FAT Developed For Windows?
So what is the next rewrite of history?

Qwerty developed for Keyboards!!!?
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No, QDOS...
The FAT filesystem was first released by Seattle
Computer Systems for QDOS -- a quasi-ripoff of
CP/M written for their 8086 computer kits -- in
1980. FAT is 25 years old and itself not
patentable.

Microsoft's patent claims all revolve around
using long filenames in a FAT filesystem that
wouldn't otherwise support it (they have 4
patents on that). It's the ability to use long
filenames on a FAT filesystem that they are
attempting to assert rights over.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Link Flag
No, QDOS...
The FAT filesystem was first released by Seattle
Computer Systems for QDOS -- a quasi-ripoff of
CP/M written for their 8086 computer kits -- in
1980. FAT is 25 years old and itself not
patentable.

Microsoft's patent claims all revolve around
using long filenames in a FAT filesystem that
wouldn't otherwise support it (they have 4
patents on that). It's the ability to use long
filenames on a FAT filesystem that they are
attempting to assert rights over.
Posted by Gleeplewinky (289 comments )
Link Flag
Crossover
Is it time to reclassify intellectual property? Does it qualify for a patent or copyright? Maybe a hybrid. Regardless, I have a like-hate view of Microsoft. I would hate to see open source hamstrung because FAT got a patent. I'm glad computing became accessable in part because of MS-DOS, Windows, etc... Money has made Microsoft mad. If it weren't for frustration with Microsoft I never would have gotten interested in Minix and subsequently Linux.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Intellectual property....
It's a term that tries to blur the lines between and encompass patents, copyrights, and the like. It's a term usually used to confuse the masses, some how making it sound more impressive. Let's just say, in the court of law, if I were questioned about "Intellectual Property" I'd have to ask "What kind?" because it's to broad of a term.

I really, honestly, hope M$ doesn't win this one. Not that I don't believe in compensation, but come on. The FAT file system has been out since 1980, starting with FAT12 in QDOS. You can read the history at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_Allocation_Table" target="_newWindow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_Allocation_Table</a>. To be honest, they didn't invent it. They took someone else's idea, stole it, and expanded on it. To be quite honest with you, Linux doesn't use FAT anymore compiled into the kernel. Instead, it's included in a driver that can easily be separated from the kernel. If it become encumbered, simply remove the driver and no harm done.
Posted by fireball74 (80 comments )
Link Flag
Crossover
Is it time to reclassify intellectual property? Does it qualify for a patent or copyright? Maybe a hybrid. Regardless, I have a like-hate view of Microsoft. I would hate to see open source hamstrung because FAT got a patent. I'm glad computing became accessable in part because of MS-DOS, Windows, etc... Money has made Microsoft mad. If it weren't for frustration with Microsoft I never would have gotten interested in Minix and subsequently Linux.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Intellectual property....
It's a term that tries to blur the lines between and encompass patents, copyrights, and the like. It's a term usually used to confuse the masses, some how making it sound more impressive. Let's just say, in the court of law, if I were questioned about "Intellectual Property" I'd have to ask "What kind?" because it's to broad of a term.

I really, honestly, hope M$ doesn't win this one. Not that I don't believe in compensation, but come on. The FAT file system has been out since 1980, starting with FAT12 in QDOS. You can read the history at <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_Allocation_Table" target="_newWindow">http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File_Allocation_Table</a>. To be honest, they didn't invent it. They took someone else's idea, stole it, and expanded on it. To be quite honest with you, Linux doesn't use FAT anymore compiled into the kernel. Instead, it's included in a driver that can easily be separated from the kernel. If it become encumbered, simply remove the driver and no harm done.
Posted by fireball74 (80 comments )
Link Flag
Too funny
Only Microsoft would have chutzpah to try and patent something they didn't invent, or is even unique.

At its basics, FAT is an array of pointers. Are they going to try to patent simple data structures next?

This should make open source fans/users happy. That Microsofts only way to compete against open source is to sleaze around in the shadows, trying to take sucker punches. They can not come out and compete fairly, side by side.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Too funny
Only Microsoft would have chutzpah to try and patent something they didn't invent, or is even unique.

At its basics, FAT is an array of pointers. Are they going to try to patent simple data structures next?

This should make open source fans/users happy. That Microsofts only way to compete against open source is to sleaze around in the shadows, trying to take sucker punches. They can not come out and compete fairly, side by side.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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