Microsoft today filed a patent infringement suit against TomTom, the Amsterdam-based maker of portable GPS systems for in-car navigation, after more than a year of trying to reach a licensing arrangement, the company said. A Microsoft spokeswoman described the infringed patents as covering “inventions that enable a vehicle computer system to run multiple applications, provide more natural driving directions, integrate other devices, and access the Internet.”
[Update, 6:10 a.m. Thursday: A TomTom spokesman told Reuters, “We reject the claim and will vigorously defend ourselves.”]
Microsoft’s top intellectual property lawyer, Horacio Gutierrez, said in a statement:
“We have an established intellectual property licensing program, and the patents involved in this case, relating to innovations in car navigation technology and other computing functionality, have been licensed by many others. In situations such as this, when a reasonable business agreement cannot be reached, we have no choice but to pursue legal action to protect our innovations and our partners who license them.”
I’m seeking comment from TomTom representatives in the U.K. and Amsterdam. I will update this post if appropriate.
Microsoft’s action was filed in U.S. District Court for Western Washington and with the International Trade Commission. Documents from the case don’t appear to be available yet.
Update, 2:43 p.m.: The spokeswoman provided more details on the patents in question. There are eight in total. Three pertain to “technology that makes file management more efficient.” Two of these cover “FAT Long File Name (LFN) patents enable efficient naming, organizing, storing and accessing of file data, and the other infringed patent allows file systems to work better with flash memory.”
Todd Bishop at TechFlash reports that these relate to “implementation of the Linux kernel” marking possibly “the first time Microsoft has filed a patent suit over Linux, after claiming for years that elements of the open-source operating system violate its patents.”