Microsoft and TomTom Settle Patent Dispute


Microsoft and TomTom recently announced a settlement in their patent suits, ending the legal battle that had raised concerns in the open-source community. The agreement involves TomTom paying Microsoft for patent protection related to mapping and file-management patents, alleging infringement by TomTom’s use of the Linux kernel. This development sparks discussions about the impact on Linux, open-source software, and the broader tech industry.


Earlier this month, Microsoft sued TomTom, asserting infringement of eight patents, including three file management systems patents related to TomTom’s Linux kernel implementation. The patents, known as FAT LFN patents, are crucial for efficient file data naming, organizing, storing, and accessing. This move fueled speculation about Microsoft’s stance on enforcing its Linux-related patents.

The Settlement Terms

Under the settlement, TomTom will pay an unspecified amount to Microsoft for coverage related to the eight patents. In return, Microsoft will gain access to the patents cited in TomTom’s countersuit against Microsoft. The five-year agreement allows TomTom to fulfill its obligations under the General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2) while requiring the removal of functionality covered by the three file management systems patents within two years.

Open Source Community Reaction

The TomTom case drew significant attention in the open-source community, prompting discussions about Microsoft’s intentions regarding Linux-related patents. TomTom’s decision to join the Open Invention Network, a group dedicated to protecting Linux by acquiring and licensing open-source patents, underscores the case’s significance within the open-source ecosystem.

Implications for Linux and Open Source

While the settlement resolves issues between Microsoft and TomTom, questions linger about Microsoft’s broader claims against Linux. The company has a history of pursuing patent deals with Linux vendors and consumer electronics firms. Microsoft’s refusal to provide specific details about its future actions adds uncertainty to the Linux landscape, leaving room for speculation about potential legal actions against other companies using Linux commercially. Microsoft’s Stance on Intellectual Property Compensation Microsoft’s Deputy General Counsel, Horacio Gutierrez, emphasized the company’s obligation to shareholders and licensees to ensure fair compensation for intellectual property. The settlement with TomTom adds a new dimension to Microsoft’s approach, as it signals a willingness to take legal action when negotiations for patent licenses do not result in a deal.


The resolution of the Microsoft-TomTom patent dispute relieves both companies but raises broader questions about Microsoft’s strategy regarding Linux-related patents. The implications for the open-source community, Linux vendors, and companies using Linux commercially remain uncertain. As the tech industry continues to evolve, stakeholders will closely watch Microsoft’s actions to gauge the company’s stance on intellectual property in the context of open-source software.
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