updated 04:20 pm EDT, Mon March 23, 2009
TomTom Licenses Linux
GPS device maker TomTom on Monday took defensive measures against Microsoft's patent lawsuit by officially licensing Linux from the Open Invention Network. The move gives TomTom access to OIN's patents and puts it under a "shielded" ecosystem where it can use the open-source OS with less risk of legal threats. TomTom isn't required to pay royalties but also promises not to use any of its own patents against Linux as a whole.
The company doesn't directly link the timing of its license deal to the Microsoft lawsuit but stresses that Linux has an "important role" on all its GPS devices. Although Microsoft has insisted that its complaint wasn't targeting open-source software like Linux, three of the six disputed patents involve the operating system and extend to the kernel, which would force TomTom to significantly rework the software that drives its navigation. Microsoft has in recent years taken a policy of challenging Linux patents by pushing Novell and other Linux distributors into cross-licensing agreements, sometimes with allusions to legal threats.
TomTom has countersued Microsoft of its own accord and has claimed that Microsoft Streets & Trips violates four patents.