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New Linux patch could circumvent Microsoft's FAT patents
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Written by Daniel   
Thursday, 02 July 2009 11:49

A Linux developer has published a new kernel patch that provides a workaround to avoid Microsoft's patents on the FAT filesystem.

By Ryan Paul | Last updated July 1, 2009 7:15 PM CT

The patch, which has undergone extensive legal review by patent lawyers, could make it possible to use FAT on Linux without having to pay licensing fees to Microsoft.

 Microsoft's recent lawsuit against TomTom, alleging infringement of filesystem patents, has left many questions unanswered about the legal implications of distributing open source implementations of Microsoft's FAT filesystem. A new Linux kernel patch that was published last week offers a workaround that might make it possible to continue including FAT in Linux without using methods that are covered by Microsoft's patents.



The patent dispute erupted in February when Microsoft sued portable navigation device maker TomTom. Microsoft claimed that TomTom's Linux-based GPS products infringe on several of its patents, including two that cover specific characteristics of FAT, a filesystem devised by Microsoft that is widely used on removable storage devices such as USB thumb drives and memory cards. The dispute escalated when TomTom retaliated with a counter-suit, but it was eventually settled in March when TomTom agreed to remove the relevant functionality.

The outcome of the lawsuit created ambiguity around the legal status of the Linux FAT implementation. Microsoft contends that the suit was a largely isolated incident and that there are no plans to pursue litigation against individual Linux users. For commercial Linux adopters, however, the situation is murkier. Linux is widely used on mobile and embedded devices, and many of these need to be able to read FAT-formatted removable media.  [ARS Technica....]    [Comments...]
 

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