Microsoft to charge royalties for FAT file system

Microsoft has announced a FAT file system licensing scheme that will charge manufacturers of solid state media and certain consumer electronics devices up to $250,000. Manufacturers will be charged $0.25 per unit up to a maximum of $250,000, but they’ll get some reference source code as part of the deal.

For manufacturers of solid state media, FAT royalties should be easy to sidestep by selling unformatted media. Unfortunately, consumer electronics manufacturers whose devices require pre-loaded software won’t be able to get away with selling unformatted drives unless they rely on consumers to install device software themselves.

Microsoft’s FAT-related patents appear to only refer to long file name implementations, so that may be another loophole for manufacturers to consider. However, I can’t help but think that the $0.25 fee up to a maximum of $250,000 is a pretty token royalty, all things considered.

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    • Anonymous
    • 16 years ago

    This is scummy behavior plain and simple. There should be a law about allowing your technology to permeate freely for years until it becomes a standard. Once everyone becomes dependant, then they turn the screws. Has everyone so completely lost touch with any basic sense of right and wrong that they don’t see what is wrong with this kind of behavior. If they were “protecting” their IP from the start, there probably would have been a free standard right from the beginning, now that is entrenched they will succeed with their extortion.

    One more point is that this is probably the thin edge of the wedge. If they get away with this, they will probably be claiming rights on everything.

      • Anonymous
      • 16 years ago

      Did you read the post from #2. If not, then you should do that.

        • Anonymous
        • 16 years ago

        I read it. Not related issue in any way.

        FAT was not some trade secret they were preventing the competition from seeing. It IS AN INDUSTRY STANDARD, that they are trying to enforce long after the fact.

          • Anonymous
          • 16 years ago

          #27 The FAT file system has always been and always will be owned by Microsoft. Its there technology, and up until recently, have been the only ones using it. Its the OS that reads and writes the FAT, any program that saves files or opens them are going through the OS to do so, except for some file system utility’s that work on a lower level.

            • Anonymous
            • 16 years ago

            Make that clueless gerbil #28

            It has been used in cameras, PDAs, MP3 players for years.
            Ever hear of PDA’s
            Ever hear fo digital cameras?
            Ever hear of MP3 players?
            Ever hear of preformated floppy disks?
            Ever hear of computers that don’t use windows. My Amiga could read and write Fat in 1985.
            Ever hear of OS/2?
            DR. Dos?

            We have seen decades of devices and media formatted Fat. It has become an industry standard. It is nothing but a sleazoid tactic to now use extortion on everyone.

      • Anonymous
      • 16 years ago

      Looking on the US Patent office web site the patents are to do with LFN extensions to FAT, not the original FAT system and have a good 10-13 years left in them.

    • Aphasia
    • 16 years ago

    $0.25 is a very resonable fee, and if they also include the total specifications that can mean so much more then a reverse engineering.

    But to get to the max amount of $250 000 the company in question has to sell 1 million units, and a company that does that sure has the ability to pay for it and not thinking of it as expensive. You can be sure they make a nice profit on each unit.

    And with the license, it is agreed that the device must be complient on certain parts of the FAT specification, and it also includes relevant sourceode and testing specifications, while still giving the customer options to negoiate a broader or more shallow license. It also seems to entitle licensees to future technology built on pending patents with regards to the FAT filesystem.

    • Anonymous
    • 16 years ago

    Huh? Patents last 16 (18? 20?) years, so how long until the FAT patents expire?

    • Craig P.
    • 16 years ago

    Looks like Microsoft is aiming at consumer electronics and flash cards with this, but it’s not clear whether they /[

    • Mr Bill
    • 16 years ago

    Maybe MS will have the same problem with FAT that ATT did with UNIX. ATT left the copyright notice off UNIX for a long time and allowed it to be shared freely. The Judgement concluded it was too late to try and make it proprietary (with respect to BSD) after making it an open standard for so long. FAT has been an open standard for a long time. I’m not sure attempts to go for money now will stand up in court.

    • Mr Bill
    • 16 years ago

    I wonder how this will affect FreeDOS?
    §[<http://www.freedos.org/<]§

      • sativa
      • 16 years ago

      does FreeDOS sell solid state drives or consumer electronics?

        • Mr Bill
        • 16 years ago

        Don’t think so. But I was thinking they would have code for writing FAT for compatability with other IBM, DR, and MS DOS. Does’nt it all come down to writing FAT on a storage device as the infringing factor?

    • Niteslayer
    • 16 years ago

    I smell a big FAT lawsuit comming! One where only the lawyers come away with FAT wallets!!! 😉

    • DukenukemX
    • 16 years ago

    Why not format in NTFS or is that considered FAT as well? Today aren’t most PC equiped with a Windows 2000 or XP OS?

      • UberGerbil
      • 16 years ago

      NTFS has loads of overhead. FAT is much better for small systems with relatively few files, shallow directory structures, and/or low file turnover. NTFS systems still format floppies using FAT for just this reason. FAT would make sense for an MP3 player; NTFS generally wouldn’t.

      Of course, the fact that FAT is so simple means it doesn’t take a whole lot to do something different but equivalent. So you’d only bother licensing it if you needed to be compatible with it for some reason.

      Generally I think Microsoft is probably doing this not so much for the revenue as for the appearance of openness (they’re under review by the European Union, and the DOJ lawsuit isn’t finalized either). I highly doubt they’ll charge exorbitant amounts to license it: they’ll be happy for the good pr and a little recurring revenue stream.

      • indeego
      • 16 years ago

      You lose a massive W9x market, which is surprisingly still significant. NTFS would incure likely even more patent protections, and for a longer period from nowg{<.<}g

    • Anonymous
    • 16 years ago

    MS trying to get oems to stop using FAT and move to FAT32. MS is trying to get rid of FAT compatibility in Longhorn.

    • Anonymous
    • 16 years ago

    i’m not sure if i’m getting this right but it seems to me this tax wouldn’t apply to companies selling /[

      • Anonymous
      • 16 years ago

      No, end-users wouldn’t pay this directly, and it wouldn’t apply to Windows PCs. What they’re talking about is other uses of FAT — like, say, an MP3 player that uses FAT for its file management. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went after competing OSs that offer FAT-compatibility, however. Apple is already cross-lic’d up the wazoo with MS, but watch them go asking Red Hat for a quarter per.

    • meanfriend
    • 16 years ago

    /[

    • DaveJB
    • 16 years ago

    I don’t quite get this… is MS charging for any use of FAT, or are they saying “Give us money, and we’ll give you the secrets of FAT”?

    • Anonymous
    • 16 years ago

    It’s funny, for all MS’ evilness (real and imagined) it never used its patent portfolio as a stick. It would counter-sue when sued by someone else, but it never went around doing the RAMBUS shakedown, and it didn’t buy up patents just to squeeze blood from everybody else (even though that’s exactly what the Stacker guys did to them). I wonder if that is changing, or if this is all just an effort to appear more open to the courts here and in Europe. Given the token amounts involved, it would seem like the latter.

    • just brew it!
    • 16 years ago

    q[

      • meanfriend
      • 16 years ago

      y[

        • wesley96
        • 16 years ago

        True that.. a quarter to MS or an install CD? Hmm..

          • just brew it!
          • 16 years ago

          Well… most devices that can be connected to your computer come with some sort of software CD anyway, so they’re probably not saving the cost of printing the CD. The additional potential for support headaches is something to consider though.

    • Anonymous
    • 16 years ago

    Hmmm, this really seems like a case of “Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” MS’ competitors got the DOJ to sue them; part of the settlement was for MS to open up its formats… but of course the gov’t can’t just make proprietary into public domain (illegal search and seizure) so MS gets to charge for them. Other companies were using FAT freely before, and MS wasn’t going after them. Now, they’ll have to pay.

    • Anonymous
    • 16 years ago

    I Agree, they ARE using an MS technology…and to be fair, a Patent IS a patent.

    Besides, like you said, they CAN just sell unformatted…

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