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Old FAT Microsoft

Ripped from the headlines of slashdot: http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/tech/fat.asp

So Microsoft is going to charge people who use the FAT file system in products.  Someone is thinking that Sony, Canon, etc. owe them for using FAT in cameras, etc.  And since the camera doesn't run WinCE, let's start charging them.

The problem is, all those patents make claims against common long/short file name space conventions.  You know, "Program Files" vs PROGRAM~ or some such thing.  I briefly looked at  the claims, and it seems that all claims are related to file/directory naming, etc.  Nothing about the file system linked list structure apart from file name spaces (that I noticed anyhow).

Is is possible that FAT as used in these devices also infringes on the conventions and methods used in these claims?  Seems unlikely, when I mount my Canon ELF's flash, I see pic001.jpg, pic002.jpg, ... Nothing special there.

Any chance Microsoft will generate revenue off this one?

FAT File System–Related Patents
The FAT file system licensing program includes rights to a number of U.S. Patents, including:

    * U.S. Patent #5,579,517
    * U.S. Patent #5,745,902
    * U.S. Patent #5,758,352
    * U.S. Patent #6,286,013

(I wouldn't pick a fight with Sony on patents, which generates >1K patents per year, only second to IBM with something over 2K.)

hoser
Thursday, December 04, 2003

I wonder if they will also charge other commercial OS vendors for their FAT support (MacOS, commercial UNIXes, etc...).
By the way, how will they get royalties from the Linux FAT implementation (and other opensource variants)?

FireMode
Friday, December 05, 2003

This is the fundamental difference between patents and copyright.

I can reverse engineer any file format so long as I am not using any confidential inside info - this how compaq produced the PC BIOS.
You cannot ( currently in europe ) copyright the external interface , in fact you are explicitly permitted to reverse engineer to produce an interoperable part.

But in doing this I cannot use any invention that is patented - this is the danger of software patents you can patent a necessary step of a standard format and lock people out of it.

I can produce a FAT driver if I either do not use long file names or choose a different alogrithm to generate them.

The problem would be if the patent for the algorithm was the only way of producing  a valid format. You would have to get the patent overturned. There are exception in EU patents to prohibit this.

For example, you could have patented the idea of having a special character to separate the name and domain in an email address but you couldn't patent an algorithm which said "insert a @" if this was the only valid character allowed by the standard.

Martin Beckett
Friday, December 05, 2003

How do we know that the likes of Sony aren't paying license fees to Microsoft already?

James Ussher-Smith
Friday, December 05, 2003

quote from the http://www.microsoft.com/mscorp/ip/tech/fat.asp :

(There is) "A license for removable solid state media manufacturers to preformat the media, such as compact flash memory cards, to the Microsoft FAT file system format, and to preload data onto such preformatted media using the Microsoft FAT file system format."

Why not extending this to floppies? They can make big money from DOS preformatted-floppies manufacturers also.

I will patent this idea so Redmond guys will have to pay me a $200,000 license fee for every agreement they sign with floppies makers :-)

FireMode
Friday, December 05, 2003

People still make floppies? I though, like Twinkies, they stopped making them years ago and we're living off of the manufacturing stockpile.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, December 07, 2003

Yes, for example Sony is still making floppies. I've just bought 10 of them yesterday to archive important data from my "old and lovely" 486 machine.
486!!!! Yes, it sounds prehistoric, but I am keeping this computer for playing old games that require DOS and only DOS :-)

FireMode
Tuesday, December 09, 2003

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