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TomTom joins open-source patent collective

The GPS maker, which is being sued by Microsoft, said Monday it is joining the Open Invention Network, which also counts Red Hat, IBM, and Google as members.

TomTom, the GPS maker being sued by Microsoft, has joined a collective of companies that have pooled their patents in an effort to help defend open-source software against legal threats.

In a press release on Monday, the Open Invention Network said that TomTom had joined its ranks. The collective aims to create a "supportive and shielded ecosystem to ensure the growth and adoption of Linux" and has amassed a pool of 275 pending and issued patents.

"Linux plays an important role at TomTom as the core of all our portable navigation devices," Peter Spours, director of IP at TomTom, said in a statement. "We believe that by becoming an Open Invention Network licensee, we encourage Linux development and foster innovation in a technical community that benefits everyone."

Microsoft announced late last month that it was suing TomTom over a number of patents, including several related to TomTom's use of the Linux kernel. The suit marked the first time Microsoft has turned to the courts to enforce its long-held assertion that Linux infringes on Microsoft's patents.

Last week TomTom countersued Microsoft, saying the software maker violates some of TomTom's patents.

As for Open Invention Network, the effort was founded in 2005 by Red Hat, IBM, and others. Companies such as Oracle and Google have since joined.

Keith Bergelt, OIN's chief executive, has been critical of Microsoft's patent actions against TomTom and Linux.

"This indicates that they don't understand how to actually participate as a responsible member of the open-source or Linux community," he said of Microsoft, following its suit. "And their behavior is clearly antagonistic to Linux. It's unfortunate they decided to adopt this tact."