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Torvalds Invalidates Microsoft FAT Patent

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Linus Torvalds just can?t help but be a thorn in Microsoft?s side.

First, he created an open source project that completely upset Microsoft?s business model. And now, he has helped shoot down an important Microsoft patent in Redmond?s crusade to wring licensing dollars out of Google Android and other versions of Linux.

Microsoft has coerced many Android phone makers into paying licensing fees for various Microsoft patents related to operating system design, and in some cases, it has actually taken legal action against such companies, including smartphone manufacturer Motorola. In October of 2010, it sued Motorola in federal court, and it filed a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission, or ITC.

Last December, Microsoft scored a victory when the ITC Administrative Law Judge Theodore R. Essex found that Motorola had violated four Microsoft patents. But the ruling could also eliminate an important Microsoft software patent that has been invoked in lawsuits against Barnes & Noble and car navigation device-maker Tom Tom.

According to Linus Torvalds, he was deposed in the case this past fall, and apparently his testimony about a 20-year-old technical discussion ? along with a discussion group posting made by an Amiga fan, known only as Natuerlich! ? helped convince the Administrative Law Judge that the patent was invalid.

Essex?s ruling is merely an initial determination. It is being reviewed and could yet be reversed by the Commission. But if it?s upheld, it could work against Microsoft as it continues to fight Android and other Linux-based systems that it believes violate its intellectual property.

Microsoft says that Motorola violated one of its patents, known as the 352 patent. This patent covers a technique for storing filenames with lots of characters in old filesystems such as the Windows FAT (File Allocation Table) filesystem that are designed to use very short filenames. Mobile phone makers use this type of technology so that their devices interoperate with other operating systems, including Windows.

?Motorola had found this posting of mine about long filenames used in a compatible manner with short file names? and it predated the Microsoft patent by three years,? says Torvalds.

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Yes!

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cool...so now does android manufacturers have to drop paying MS license fee?

open source can never fail.

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cool... so now does android manufacturers have to drop paying MS license fee?

The final outcome of this should directly affect all current and future licence agreements with Android makers. The FAT patent in question has always been Microsoft's heavy weight in its fight against Linux, so this could have wide ranging ramifications for licensees.

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siMAU.jpg

Microsoft won't get their "protection monies" anymore. I doubt that it will in any way benefit the customers, though.

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A judge in England has little power over international proceedings other than to voice opinion, and maybe establish some precedent, with regards to foreign patent(s).

Last I heard, FAT was a Microsoft patent in the USA; if USA judges uphold the patent, UK, and elsewhere must enforce the judgment.

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It's the year of Linux!!!

/snark

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cool...so now does android manufacturers have to drop paying MS license fee?

open source can never fail.

no, not even close. android breaks soooooooo many patents that this one wouldn't even cover it. (im not trying to be on MS is side, it;s just that patent system is stupid and in fact does breach a lot of MS patents)

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so he thinks he invalidates a patent because of a discussion topic... yet MS could of filed the pattent application before that you never know... I haven't looked into that but it could of happened... anyways... people have lost pattent cases against a patent holder when there was undisputable prior art to the patent, yet the patent wasn't invalidated... why does he think talking about it will now invalidate it?... some companies including MS and Apple have pattented things that had prior art and sued people it in the past... and they still hold the patents

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There more to this then just the patent filing date. MS may have notes and info going back further, and with the new changes to patent law, (First to file instead of first to invent), it will not get over turned, plus it would have to pre-date OS/2 v1.0 and all the betas that included the technology that was in there that had the feature.

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no, not even close. android breaks soooooooo many patents that this one wouldn't even cover it. (im not trying to be on MS is side, it;s just that patent system is stupid and in fact does breach a lot of MS patents)

It's true that this is only one patent, but it's a key one in the Microsoft strategy. It's used in every lawsuit against Linux. Without it, it's going to be much harder to convince new and existing Android makers to become licensees, and even if they do license other Microsoft patents, the cost of doing so will be greatly diminished.

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so he thinks he invalidates a patent because of a discussion topic... yet MS could of filed the pattent application before that you never know...

The newsgroup discussion is date stamped and on public record. That was three years before Microsoft's patent application. Furthermore, the judge in the case agrees with this assessment. You can't get any more conclusive that this in patent law. It's definitive prior art and completely invalidates the FAT patent.

anyways... people have lost pattent cases against a patent holder when there was undisputable prior art to the patent, yet the patent wasn't invalidated... why does he think talking about it will now invalidate it?... some companies including MS and Apple have pattented things that had prior art and sued people it in the past... and they still hold the patents

Prior art has no statue of limitations. Once proven (in a court of law), the patent is basically worthless.

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There more to this then just the patent filing date.

We're not talking about a few months here, it's three years before the patent filing date. That's enough to invalidate any patent.

and with the new changes to patent law, (First to file instead of first to invent), it will not get over turned, plus it would have to pre-date OS/2 v1.0 and all the betas that included the technology that was in there that had the feature.

Does first to file apply retroactively?

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It's interesting that they're still using the short file name functionality, it was disabled in normal Linux a while ago because it wasn't needed any more (And was the only patented part of FAT I think)

Windows 95 and NT3.5 support long file names, I can't see much of a need for a new smart phone to interface with a DOS machine (Bigger issue is getting USB drivers for the DOS machine)

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no, not even close. android breaks soooooooo many patents that this one wouldn't even cover it. (im not trying to be on MS is side, it;s just that patent system is stupid and in fact does breach a lot of MS patents)

How do you know this? Until recently no one knew what the patents even were.

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We're not talking about a few months here, it's three years before the patent filing date. That's enough to invalidate any patent.

Does the discussion become useless if they can prove it was being worked on before that?

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Windows 95 and NT3.5 support long file names, I can't see much of a need for a new smart phone to interface with a DOS machine (Bigger issue is getting USB drivers for the DOS machine)

(FAT)It's mostly used on SD cards for mobile devices, although, personally I always format mine to Ext4 because of its superior performance.

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Does the discussion become useless if they can prove it was being worked on before that?

It's a stretch to suggest that it took three years to create / get round to filing it. I don't know the exact rules, but I was under the impression the idea has to be presented or used publicly, not just internally.

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A bit of background here:

Most devices that have a USB memory device or SD card of some sort, use FAT. Devices 4 Gb or larger have to use FAT32. Devices smaller than 4 Gb use FAT16.

This gives them compatibility with MS Windows. That's the only reason they use FAT. Otherwise they would use a better disk format like linux ext2.

I think manufacturers should use ext2. If MS wants to maintain compatibility, they'll just have to write an ext2 driver for Windows. It's not like MS would have to pay royalties to use ext2.

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The newsgroup discussion is date stamped and on public record. That was three years before Microsoft's patent application. Furthermore, the judge in the case agrees with this assessment. You can't get any more conclusive that this in patent law. It's definitive prior art and completely invalidates the FAT patent.

Pretty sure prior art involves more than just a discussion. Torvalds would have had to implement said discussion into a piece of software or something for it to invalidate a patent. Talking about it means nothing.

I'm not a lawyer though so I could very well be wrong.

This gives them compatibility with MS Windows. That's the only reason they use FAT.

If that was the only reason they used FAT they would have moved onto NTFS / exFAT.

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Your link does not prove your statement "android breaks soooooooo many patents that this one wouldn't even cover it." Microsoft claims they do but it has not been proven yet.

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I know a little about intellectual property infringement in the U.S. (my father's company was involved in one of the largest ever in the U.S.) If there is one thing I learned it is this means very little as of yet & its far from over. I dont know the details, but once it gets to the States, the Patent & Trademark Office will be brought in & things will get so shady even the clerk who awarded the patent might even be discredited - nothing is off limits to bloodsuckers.

As far as "first to file" - & prior art - did that do away with the ability of "poor man's patents" to be valid and upheld in court?

The biggest thing I learned is that lawyers really will eat their own & special masters in very large cases involving some of the largest companies in the country are very likely to be paid off.

Did I mention I hate lawyers ? :angry:

North American Container v Plastipak et al

I wonder how much $$ Torvald was getting for his deposition

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A judge in England has little power over international proceedings other than to voice opinion, and maybe establish some precedent, with regards to foreign patent(s).

Last I heard, FAT was a Microsoft patent in the USA; if USA judges uphold the patent, UK, and elsewhere must enforce the judgment.

Seriously, did anyone else above (and probably below you besides me) read the article?

Essex?s ruling is merely an initial determination. It is being reviewed and could yet be reversed by the Commission.

Not that hard people...

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Your link does not prove your statement "android breaks soooooooo many patents that this one wouldn't even cover it." Microsoft claims they do but it has not been proven yet.

there has to be some traction behind it if all these guys are paying them royalties don't you think?

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