USPTO asked to review Microsoft FAT patent

2004-04-18

I usually don't post items about patents, etc. on the FreeDOS.org web site, but I've received this article from a number of you, so I thought I'd post something on the web site about it. From the article: (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2004/04/15/fat_patent_review/)

Microsoft's patent for the FAT file system - the basis for the company's first salvo in its licensing offensive - is to be reviewed by the US Patent Office, at the request of a free software group.

Microsoft introduced its first ever intellectual property licensing program in December, having hired the senior IBM executive responsible for building Big Blue's patent revenue stream from zero in 1985 into what's now a billion dollar business, Marshall Phelps. Redmond calls it "liberalization", and set the royalty payments relatively low for its intended customers, such as camera manufacturers who use the FAT file system for removable storage. But any royalty fee poses an insurmountable obstacle for free software developers, the attorney behind the request told us today.

"Free software is licensed in a way that prohibits royalties - you can't pay Microsoft a license and distribute your software under a free software license," says Dan Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation which has filed the request to invalidate the patent.

...

The says that Microsoft's FAT patent (5,579, 517) is invalid because of three prior art patents, filed by IBM and Xerox in 1988, 1989 and 1990. Microsoft was not granted '517 until 1996.