Microsoft and TomTom signal end of patent war

31 Mar 2009

Microsoft and TomTom have settled the patent infringement cases brought by the world’s biggest software maker in the US courts.

As part of the settlement, TomTom will pay Microsoft for coverage under the eight car navigation and file management systems patents in the Microsoft case. Also, as part of the agreement, Microsoft receives coverage under the four patents included in the TomTom countersuit.

The agreement, which has a five-year term, does not require any payment by Microsoft to TomTom. It covers both past and future US sales of the relevant products.

The specific financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The agreement includes patent coverage for Microsoft’s three file management systems patents provided in a manner that is fully compliant with TomTom’s obligations under the General Public License Version 2 (GPLv2).

TomTom will remove from its products the functionality related to two file management system patents (the ‘FAT LFN patents’), which enables efficient naming, organising, storing and accessing of file data.

TomTom will remove this functionality within two years, and the agreement provides for coverage directly to TomTom’s end customers under these patents during that time.

“Our car navigation patents, which are at the heart of the enhanced auto experience enjoyed by millions of drivers today, have been licensed to many companies, including leaders in the car navigation sector,” Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice-president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing, Microsoft Corporation, stated.

“The file management system patents, which increase file management system efficiency and functionality, have also been licensed by many companies, including those that produce mixed-source products.

“We were able to work with TomTom to develop a patent agreement that addresses its needs and ours in a pragmatic way. When addressing IP infringement issues, there are two possible paths: securing patent coverage, or not using the technology at issue. Through this agreement, TomTom is choosing a combination of both paths to meet the unique needs of its business, and we are glad to help it do so.”

Peter Spours, director of IP Strategy and Transactions at TomTom N.V., said: “This agreement puts an end to the litigation between our two companies. It is drafted in a way that ensures TomTom’s full compliance with its obligations under the GPLv2, and thus reaffirms our commitment to the open-source community.”

By John Kennedy

Pictured: TomTom ONE Assist satnav device

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years