Microsoft Sues TomTom Over Mobile Patents

Microsoft announced that it is suing GPS device vendor TomTom for infringing as many as eight of the software giant’s patents. It is also asking a U.S. trade body to get involved to halt sales.

In a brief statement, Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing, said Microsoft had tried to negotiate with TomTom with no luck.

“We have taken this action after attempting for more than a year to engage in licensing discussions with TomTom,” Gutierrez’s statement said.

“Microsoft has filed an action today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and in the [U.S.] International Trade Commission (ITC), against TomTom NV and TomTom, Inc. for infringement of Microsoft patents,” he added.

The case does not appear to attack TomTom’s use of Linux, although Microsoft executives have repeatedly said in the past that Linux violates Microsoft patents. At one point nearly two years ago, Brad Smith, general counsel for Microsoft and Gutierrez’s boss, said Linux vendors were in violation of some 235 Microsoft patents.

Instead, Microsoft’s descriptions of the patents involved in the complaints sound relatively generic. These include titles such as “Vehicle Computer System with Open Platform Architecture,” “Method and System For Generating Driving Directions,” and “Vehicle Computer System with Wireless Internet Connectivity.”

Others seem arcane, including one named “Common Name Space for Long and Short Filenames,” and another dubbed “Method and System for File System Management Using a Flash-Erasable, Programmable, Read-only Memory.”

Under attack are more than a dozen TomTom models sold in the U.S., including TomTom Go, TomTom One, TomTom Rider, and TomTom XL models.

Microsoft is requesting the U.S. court grant it triple damages and an injunction meant to stop TomTom from continuing the alleged infringement. From the ITC, Microsoft is asking for an investigation and the exclusion of all the so-called “accused devices” from the U.S.

An e-mail to TomTom’s Amsterdam headquarters was not acknowledged by press time. A call placed to a number listed in the legal filing in Concord, Mass. turned out to be a TomTom tech support line, which was closed for the day.

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