Microsofts FAT Patent Rejected for Now

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office initially rejects Microsoft's patent claims on the FAT file system, leaving the door open for the company to support or amend its claims.

In a heavy blow to Microsofts intellectual property rights, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has initially rejected Microsofts patent claims on the universally popular FAT (file allocation table) file system.

The request to re-examine Microsoft Corp.s FAT patent was first made in April by PUBPAT (the Public Patent Foundation), a nonprofit organization that describes its mission as "protecting the public from the harms caused by wrongly issued patents and unsound patent policy."

/zimages/3/28571.gifRead more here about PUBPATs call for re-examination.

The FAT system, which Microsoft claims it developed in 1976, has become an ubiquitous format used for data storage and data interchange between computers and digital devices such as cameras and USB memory sticks.

FAT is also used by some open-source software, such as Samba, to let Linux and Unix computers exchange data with Windows computers.

Microsoft officials said they look forward to responding to the patent offices ruling, called an "office action," by providing the companys pwn side of the story.

"This latest action by the PTO [Patent and Trademark Office] is just one step in a long process," a Microsoft representative said. "The PTO has not revoked the patent; it has simply put the claims in question and requested Microsoft to provide arguments supporting our initial claims or amending our claims. We are looking forward to having our first opportunity to weigh in with Microsofts side of the story."

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about how the FAT patent review could harm Microsoft.

PUBPAT, however, sees the PTOs decision as a clear-cut victory.

"We are very pleased with the patent offices rejection of Microsofts FAT patent," said Dan Ravicher, executive director at PUBPAT.

"Requesting that the patent office revoke invalid patents is a core part of our overall mission of reforming the patent system, because it both gives specific examples of the patent systems failings and works to prevent the harm being caused by the patent system in the interim," Ravicher said.

"The patent office has simply confirmed what we already knew for some time now: Microsofts FAT patent is bogus," he said. "I hope those companies that chose to take a license from Microsoft for the patent negotiated refund clauses so that they can get their money back."

/zimages/3/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms Windows Center at for Microsoft and Windows news, views and analysis. /zimages/3/77042.gif

Be sure to add our Windows news feed to your RSS newsreader or My Yahoo page