TomTom counter-sues: Microsoft 'infringing four patents'

According to ComputerWorld, TomTom, a company that makes GPS (Global Positioning System) products, is suing Microsoft for patent infringement in what appears to be a retaliatory strike against Microsoft's own patent lawsuit, launched a few weeks ago and detailed here, against TomTom.

The Microsoft product in question? Streets and Trips, software for PCs that can receive and present data from a GPS receiver (in the form, say, of a USB fob). TomTom reportedly had repeatedly notified Microsoft of how the Redmond company was infringing TomTom's patents, but Microsoft had simply been neglecting to respond acceptably to TomTom's complaints.

Then, about a month ago, Microsoft sued TomTom for allegedly violating eight of its patents (a lawsuit that seemed more aimed at Linux than TomTom).

TomTom is seeking in its current lawsuit "triple damages for willful infringement" on Microsoft's part because Microsoft had been notified of TomTom's claims and had not come forward with acceptable licensing terms. But the lawsuit can also be viewed as a "counter-strike" in light of Microsoft's recent "attack" against TomTom.

This is yet another case of the patent "cold wars" going "hot".

In general terms patents of any kind can be valuable--owning a patent means that you can produce things to sell that no one else can legally produce or that you can license the rights to someone else who can then make commercial use of it. Things, however, are so complex these days, and it is not unusual for a company to design a product which infringes someone else's patent or patents. It is often not possible even to know if you have infringed someone else's patent, or at least it is not usually financially feasible to investigate the matter.

Patents, especially in the tech industries, serve these days partly as cash-generators (whether through direct use or licensing) or as "weapons" to use against competitors. Companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Toshiba, and Samsung, among others, file massive numbers of patent applications every year to increase their "arsenal" of patents--partly, again, to use to make money and partly to use as "weapons" in case other companies sue them.

Imagine that you and I are both big companies. Chances are, as we both develop new products, we'll each be infringing certain patents of the other, whether we mean to or not. Under normal conditions, if you notice I'm infringing a patent of yours, you would contact me and we'd work out a licensing deal (or perhaps a larger cross-licensing deal if each of us has patents the other wants access to). However, if I don't reply to your claims, you can sue me. This can be risky for you as well because I could then sue you for patent infringement, and what had been a "cold war" has now gone "hot".

In the present case, Microsoft raised the bar by filing suit against TomTom, and now that TomTom has counter-sued, their patent "cold war" has gone "hot".

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Microsoft is well armed for the patent war. MS is constantly involved in legal battles with others over patents or license infringements, and those all have a similar outcome. MS ends up settling by cross-licensing patents. What happens when everyone cross-licenses with MS but not with each other? MS ends up the most powerful, because they can implement software at a lower cost (without having to pay those licensing fees) and because they are covered in more areas than their competition regarding patents, so they can be sued for less, and some of their more capable competitors are prevented from suing them because they already entered a cross licensing deal with MS.

I nthis case this tom tom counter suit might not have merrit. Microsofts map software was bought from a company a while ago.

from wikipedia

Originally created in the late 1980s by NextBase Ltd, a UK company, under the name "AutoRoute", it was sold for DOS based PCs and later for the Apple Macintosh. In the early 1990s it was ported to the Microsoft Windows operating system. The company created a version for the United States called AutoMap. In 1994 the product was sold to Microsoft. Microsoft sold products for Windows 95 as AutoMap Road Atlas and AutoMap Streets under the Microsoft Home brand.
"

Streets trips and maps ha sbeen around since the 1980's microsoft bought the software from another company. I do not see how tom tom would win since the software has existed i think even before tom tom was a company (look it up software was around i nthe 1980's for msdos.)

majortom1981 said,
Streets trips and maps ha sbeen around since the 1980's microsoft bought the software from another company. I do not see how tom tom would win since the software has existed i think even before tom tom was a company (look it up software was around i nthe 1980's for msdos.)

Once again, TomTom isn't suing that their product predates Streets & Trips or such. It will be about some specific method, just like the FAT32 thing was about a specific implementation.

i'd be curious what patents tomtom actually has... if they're defendable patents, then hell yes they should sue back *shrug*

GreyWolfSC said,
What are the patents? Streets & Trips with GPS support has been around longer than TomTom has.

I don't think the entire concept of using GPS on a map is the patent. :P

Patents invariably come down to the method that something is done.

GreyWolfSC said,
What are the patents? Streets & Trips with GPS support has been around longer than TomTom has.


Has it never had an update? Maybe it's similar to Neowin Shift and the issue of leaving Gnome for another core. Maybe at some point the program added a feature that wasn't available before. Safari didn't used to have the favourites window and now it does. Opera started that.