TomTom Surrenders, Pays Microsoft Licensing Fees For Linux

Microsoft just legally clobbered Dutch GPS maker TomTom, and by extension the Linux operating system.

CNET is reporting the two companies have settled their acrimonious patent infringement lawsuit over whether parts of Linux (used by TomTom) infringe on Microsoft’s intellectual property. And the terms of the agreement are all in Microsoft’s favour.

Under the settlement, TomTom will pay Microsoft an undisclosed amount to licence some of the functionality under dispute, and agrees to remove some features from its devices over the next two years.

TomTom earlier countersued Microsoft, also for patent infringement. The settlement resolves those claims as well — and Microsoft won’t pay TomTom a dime.

The TomTom lawsuit put Microsoft between a rock and a hard place. The company has long maintained that parts of Linux violate its patents, but has never actually had to prove so in court.

Microsoft couldn’t let TomTom set a precedent of publically flouting its (claimed) patents. But an actual “Microsoft v Linux” trial/media circus would be disastrous PR for the company. Particularly as Microsoft kicks off a new anti-Apple (AAPL) ad campaign, attempts a rebrand of Microsoft search, and prepares a major consumer-facing launch in Windows 7.

But we don’t expect Microsoft to kick off more lawsuits against Linux-users. The company took a gamble that TomTom wouldn’t/couldn’t drag this out in court, and if Microsoft keeps launching more lawsuits, there’s always the risk any defendant might get stubborn.

For a company of Microsoft’s size, whatever few dollars are at stake in lost licensing fees is inconsequential compared to the nuisance of rousing the Linux giant once again.

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