TomTom and Microsoft Settle Suits (and Countersuits): Is it Over?

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 30, 2009

The patent dispute between automotive GPS manufacturer TomTom and Microsoft has come to a close, with both sides settling the original suit and countersuit. CNet has a short but informative summary of at least some of the terms (certain financial specifics were not disclosed). The terms are written in order to preserve TomTom's compliance with its obligations under the GPL v.2 licenses on its code. TomTom must also remove functionality from its products that are related to the two file management systems that were under contention in the suit.

This is, at least for the upcoming agreed-upon five year period, how it will be between TomTom and Microsoft. It's been settled, and very little (at least from the Microsoft and TomTom camps), has been officially said about the three patents that dealt with TomTom's implementation of the Linux kernel. It's over, but have the final notes been sung?

Many agree it's still hard to tell. Both parties state they are happy enough with how things played out (which is probably quite relative, considering that lawsuits were involved on both sides) and that it's time to move forward. It's what is usually said after lawsuits are settled, and there's likely some element of truth and a decent dose of spin on the statement.

It's simply, still, too early to tell what it all means, or if it really is anything more than a simple intellectual property dispute between two companies. Was the target the Linux kernel, or was the kernel an innocent bystander, some sort of collateral damage implicated in this suit because Microsoft took issue with TomTom? We still don't know. The fact that the agreed upon terms allow TomTom to honor its GPL licensing requirements seem a positive sign -- but there are many questions left unaddressed by the official statements surrounding the case. This could simply be the nature of the legal agreement, or it could be something more. In the aftermath, the advice given early on by the Linux Foundation's Jim Zemlin seems prudent -- keep an eye on further developments, but remain calm.