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TomTom fights back, but not over Linux

Navigation device maker shoots back at Microsoft, leaving the Linux claims out of its countersuit--and leaving Linux's integrity more moribund than before.

TomTom, sued earlier by Microsoft for patent infringement related to GPS technology and TomTom's implementation of Microsoft's FAT, or file allocation table, technology in Linux, is fighting back. Unfortunately, its countersuit relates to four of its GPS patents that it claims Microsoft infringes, not the Linux patents that have the open-source community up in arms.

Neither side, in other words, is backing down. Despite my earlier concern that TomTom couldn't afford to fight Microsoft's allegations, it looks as if TomTom has found both the money and the will to fight.

I just wish that it were fighting over FAT, not GPS.

Both sides have engaged exceptional counsel, as Groklaw notes, but I doubt that the case will ever get to trial. Very few lawsuits ever make it so far, and the counsel on both sides will get paid handsomely to resolve the case at the lowest possible cost, which invariably means an out-of-court settlement.

That, too, doesn't work in favor of open source. I think that it's fair to say that open source would benefit--whatever the outcome--from seeing Microsoft's patents put on trial as they relate to Linux. Not only does TomTom's countersuit ignore the Linux-related patents, but given the likelihood that the suit will settle, it's likely that open source will be hurt, not helped, by the FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) ignited by the lawsuits.

As The 451 Group's Jay Lyman notes, Microsoft's suit against TomTom really isn't about Linux or open source, but both are collateral damage. I don't believe that the TomTom lawsuit is the first salvo in a Microsoft-sponsored legal battle against Linux, as some claim.

It's a lawsuit, one that involves Linux, but which ultimately will only likely hurt Linux by not tackling it head-on. Instead of clarity, we're only likely to get cloudiness from the TomTom lawsuit. That's a pity.

Follow me on Twitter at mjasay.