updated 11:55 pm EDT, Thu March 19, 2009
TomTom sues Microsoft
TomTom has decided to fight back against Microsoft with a countersuit claiming infringement on several of its own patents, according to PC World. The company accuses Microsoft of infringing on four patents relating to Microsoft Streets and Trips, a mapping software that can be used in conjunction with a GPS receiver attached to a laptop. Triple damages are sought due to willful infringement, as TomTom claims to have previously alerted Microsoft to the issues.
The conflict has drawn interest from the Linux community, as Microsoft's lawsuit against TomTom relates to several patents involving the Linux operating system that is used in the portable navigation devices.
Microsoft claimed that the open-source software was not the target of the action, as the patents involved proprietary software. "Microsoft respects and appreciates the important role that open-source software plays in our industry and we respect and appreciate the passion and the great contribution that open-source developers make in our industry," said Horacio Gutierrez of Microsoft.
The denial is not likely to quiet the speculation, however, as Microsoft executives two years ago claimed that Linux software violates more than 200 of its patents.
IP lawyer Andrew Updegrove told PC World that he believes Microsoft's suit is simply a "one-shot move against TomTom," although it serves a dual purpose of showing its willingness to pursue IP issues. Another possible contributing factor could be the recent promotion of Gutierrez, an IP attorney, into the lead IP strategy position just one week before the suit was filed. Updegrove claims the "new guy at the wheel" could be trying to make a name for himself in the market.
Despite the countersuit, Microsoft released a statement that maintains its previous position. "As has been the case for more than a year, we remain committed to a licensing solution, although we will continue to press ahead with the complaints..."
TomTom's competitor, Garmin, currently holds licenses from Microsoft for similar technologies. Although Microsoft lawsuits are relatively rare, the company's licensing program has generated deals with over 500 companies.