Looking At Microsoft’s Fat Patents Through Bilski Glasses

Yesterday, (edit: thus, 2009-02-26) Microsoft attacked free software and GNU/Linux users with software patent claims against the Tom Tom Navigator and its implementation of the FAT file system. But do they have a sword or a wet rag? There have been interesting patent rejections coming from the USPTO’s Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) since the Bilski ruling was handed down by an en banc hearing of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). One is the rejection of one of IBM’s database query patents. It was rejected because the innovation isn’t “tied to a particular machine”. So it’s a happy coincidence that MS claims their technology is running on all sorts of devices. Foot, meet mouth.

The BPAI goes on to justify the rejection by pointing out that the “system” on which the innovation operates is “not recited in terms of hardware or tangible structural elements”, which is to say that the patent is rejected because the elements of the claim are “implemented solely in software or algorithms”. Does the FAT patent about converting long filenames to short filenames sound like it would pass any of these tests?

The Bilski court case was the focus of EndSoftwarePatents in 2008 under Ben Klemens’ direction. Great to see that work bear fruit.
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With widespread support for GNU/Linux becoming a reality, are these patent claims an attempt to chill adoption by spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD)? If so, then we need to make sure everyone knows about Bilski. Please digg this story and sign-up to our mailing list to hear about our upcoming work.

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