Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Microsoft Patent Victory Could Hurt Open Source

Microsoft's announcement Tuesday that a federal ruling has deemed its Windows file-storage systems patents valid, is raising concerns in the open source community.

The software giant's victory in the file allocation table (FAT) patents battle could demonstrate that global patents systems can be dangerous to the health of Linux

and the open source community at large.

"This is now a situation in which Microsoft could cause major problems to Linux vendors and users," said Florian Mueller, the leader of an anti-software patents initiative in Europe Wednesday. "The example of the FAT patents shows that all those patent quality initiatives and patent pledges have no significant value to open source developers, vendors and users if Microsoft ever wants to go for Linux's throat," he said in an email.

The FAT filesystem, sometimes called the DOS file system, contained patents that were deemed patentable by the USPTO because they were "novel and non-obvious." The patents had been challenged by some individual computer users and by the Public Patent Foundation. Last year, it appeared that the open source community, which maintains there was "prior art" inherent in the patents, had prevailed.

But in a decision filed last week, examiners sided with Microsoft, which noted Tuesday that a "patent re-examination certificate," signifying conclusion of the issue, is being prepared. Microsoft had argued that it developed the FAT in 1976.

  • 1