While the U.S. courts recently reaffirmed Microsoft's FAT (File Allocation Table) patents, the German Patent Federal Court has just dismissed the patent for use in Germany. According to a report in the German news publication Heise Online, the court has denied the protection that the European Patent Office granted to Microsoft under EP 0618540 for a "common namespace for long and short filenames." This was based on Microsoft's U.S. Patent No. 5,758,352. The German Patent Court stated that the patent claims Microsoft made are "not based on inventive activity."
FAT is a file system that Windows and other operating systems use to track the clusters of data that make up files on mass storage devices, such as hard drives or USB memory sticks. In Linux circles, it's best known for its use in the Samba server application. Samba enables Windows PCs to read and write files on Linux servers, and allows Linux desktops to access Windows servers. Some supporters of Linux and free software have long feared that Microsoft could use its FAT patents to attack Linux vendors and users. While Microsoft has never done so, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has often made claims that Linux "uses [Microsoft's] intellectual property."