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January 11, 2006

Microsoft FAT file system patents upheld

Posted by David Hunter at 9:45 AM ET.

Anne Broache at CNET:

Two patents covering one of Microsoft’s main Windows file-storage systems are valid after all, federal patent examiners have decided.

The decision, announced Tuesday by the software giant, effectively ends a two-year saga over the patents and reverses two non-final rulings–the latest issued in October–in which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Microsoft’s claims.

In their latest action, filed last week, the examiners concluded that the company’s File Allocation Table (FAT) file system is, in fact, “novel and non-obvious,” entitling it to patentability. Now the office is in the process of issuing a “patent re-examination certificate,” which signals the finality of the decision, a Microsoft representative said.

The FAT file system, a common means of storing files, was originally developed for the DOS operating system, but has also been employed in Microsoft’s Windows and on removable flash memory cards used in digital cameras and other devices. Some Linux- and Unix-related products also use the system to exchange data with Windows.

The patents had been challenged by The Public Patent Foundation and an individual on the basis that prior art existed. Microsoft already offers FAT licenses for hardware manufacturers, but the implications for Linux, other open source projects, and even competitive products which utilize FAT for Windows compatibility may be more serious. Note that similar patent challenges are underway in Canada and Germany.

Filed under Linux, Open Source, Patents

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