We regularly cover the Microsoft patent issue, IMO where in order to get what it wants it will threaten with this largely untested resource it has at its disposal. When we reported that Microsoft was taking on another smaller (and financially) weaker firm (TOMTOM) I think the last thing we expected was that TOMTOM would bite back, this time with its own patent complaint filing.
Briefly recapping on what is now old news, TOMTOM has filed its complaint stating that patents 5902350 , 5938720 , 6660994 and 6542814 have been infringed.
Whats more interesting though is that TOMTOM has now agreed a settlement and effectively (IMO) rolled over for Microsoft, like so many others. TOMTOM have now entered into an agreement with Microsoft that pays them for the infringed patents. TOMTOM seem to not mind Microsoft having use of its alleged infringed IP since there is no mention of Microsoft paying TOMTOM anything. Link to follow: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13860_3-10206988-56.html?part=rss&subj=news&tag=2547-1_3-0-20
So how well is Microsoft really doing? One could be forgiven for thinking that an aggressive threatening of its portfolio could be a sign that maybe its other ventures are not as profitable as they would like (or certainly the shareholders)
Horacio Gutierrez said “We are pleased TomTom has chosen to resolve the litigation amicably by entering into a patent agreement…” I bet they are since this (IMO) had the potential to become a little nasty for the Redmond firm.
All this is a departure from TOMTOM being hailed as the company to stand up to the giant Microsoft earlier in the week, as was reported here: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/03/23/tomtom_joins_open_invention_network/
TOMTOM had allegedly joined The Open Invention Network, whose mission statement is:
“Open Invention NetworkSM is an intellectual property company that was formed to promote Linux by using patents to create a collaborative environment. It promotes a positive, fertile ecosystem for Linux, which in turns drives innovation and choice in the global marketplace. This helps ensure the continuation of innovation that has benefited software vendors, customers, emerging markets and investors.”
Youi can visit their site here: http://openinventionnetwork.com/index.php and whilst it appears TOMTOM may have lost its “bottle” there are other companies who have joined OIN who may well not. This is something the shareholders of Microsoft stock can consider as MS (IMO) scrabble for pennies in whichever patent they can wield at firms smaller than themselves.
Looking beyond TOMTOM – What other issues has Microsoft at the moment?
Looking beyond TOMTOM, are people still willing to stand against them? In february this year, a judge ruled that the Vista Capable lawsuit was no longer a class action and that individuals have to bring their own cases in order to seek damages.
Judge Marsha Pechman said “Absent evidence of class-wide price inflation, Plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that common questions predominate over individual considerations…”
Microsoft released this statement upon hearing the Judges comments:
“We’re pleased that the court granted our motion to decertify the class, leaving only the claims of six individuals. We look forward to presenting our case to the jury, should the plaintiffs elect to pursue their individual claims”
Of course you do Microsoft, its unlikely plaintiffs will have the financial backing you do, and if it seems like you might loose, you can always offer an out of court settlement for an undisclosed amount.
Am I the only person who sees this as wrong? Here we have a company that is so large it can take on just about any legal challenge. Here we have a company who has been the subject of many allegations on the net, a company that has had some rather embarassing and IMO shady emails shown in court (you can read an article here, but there are many more http://news.cnet.com/8301-13860_3-10097511-56.html?tag=mncol;txt )and a company that despite mainstream media saying that Vista is a flop or certainly lacking, Microsoft (IMO) continues to promote as being the second coming of operating systems (that is until Windows 7 is released)
Looking at why Microsoft may be scrabbling around for the pennies, lets have a look at some of the (IMO) “nearly theres” of The Empire Microsoft.
Xbox 360 – Actually not a bad console and in my opinion the best of the three currently out. Shame then that its been dogged by hardware failures and been blown out of the water (IMO) by Nintendo.
MSdeadLIVE– The search engine of many names. Whats Microsofts direction on this? I havent got a clue, but IMO its pretty accademic since people use Google.
Silverlight – Providing you can find an average user that knows what this is, IMO its even harder to find a site that deploys it with the exception of Microsoft.com. Lovingly refered to as Silversh*te, I believe that this will only be remembered on the pages of Wikipedia in a few years time.
HDdvd – Linked to the Xbox360 but important enough to have its own entry is Microsofts backing of the HDvd format. Of course that format was doomed to BLUEray, but in my opinion showed a lack of judgement by the Redmond company that they would back it in the first place. Of course you cant buy a HDdrive for your Xbox360, even if you are lucky enough not to have a unit that suffered the “red rings of death”
Zune – Hands up who knows what Zune is? Not many (IMO) but those that do certainly wont forget, imagine new years eve 2008/09 using one as your jukebox to party in the new year. Then imagine it goes down with a bug that doesnt allow functionality until new years day. Thats what happened this year. Disappointed users? Id say so. However as one Microsoft supporter said over on Microsoft Watch “it was an unfortunate incident” This type of flippant disregard for Microsofts products problems that many users seem to have is typical in todays home IT world, where IMO the average user is more likely to blame a poorly performing Microsoft product on themselves and something they have done wrong, rather than the company in Redmond who made it.
and theres more, but to me maybe the answer why Microsoft is so interested in its patent portfolio may be to do with the above. I believe the attitude to be “if we cant make the software people want to buy, we’ll take money from the companies that do”. Just my opinion, but what Microsoft product are you using that you can honestly say you cannot live without? Shareholders may also want to consider that Microsoft (IMO) has completely failed in stopping the spread of its products through the BT protocol. A quick search of any tracker will show the extent to which Microsoft products are pirated ,and in turn result in lost revenue for the Redmond firm.
It appears Red Hat are the only ones who emerged victorious in a engagement with Microsoft. Novell? Well OpenSUSE is still kicking about, although looking at the talk on the net I dont believe its the must have distro. Certainly on Distrowatch the figures show that OpenSUSE is not what people want to be getting into Linux with. Shame, if they hadnt entered into a deal with Microsoft those many years ago, I think things would have been very different. In my opinion you leave Windows to get away from Microsoft dependancy, why then would a user want a distro that IMO is one of the official bed partners of Microsoft?
Goblin – firstname.lastname@example.org