Linus Torvalds busts Microsoft patent

Open source pin-up Linus Torvalds has managed to stuff up an important Microsoft patent which was being used to force Google Android and Linux handset users to pay up.

According to Wired,  the Vole had forced many Android phone makers into paying licensing fees for various Microsoft patents related to operating system design.

It looked like Microsoft was vindicated when ITC Administrative Law Judge Theodore R. Essex found that Motorola had violated four Microsoft patents. But Torvalds helped convince the Administrative Law Judge that the patent was invalid.

Microsoft says that Motorola patent violated one of its own, known as the 352 patent. This dealt with the storing filenames with lots of characters in old filesystems such as the Windows FAT. Mobile phone makers use this type of technology so that their devices interoperate with other operating systems, including Windows.

Torvalds said that Motorola had found the posting of his about long filenames used in a compatible manner with short file names – and that it predated the Microsoft patent by three years.

He did a video deposition last fall with Microsoft’s lawyers, who tried to cast doubt on the dates of the newsgroup postings. But the fact was there was a stamped newsgroup posting that came two hours after an earlier message on the same subject.

Volish lawyers keeped hassling him about the date until he told them to stop being stupid.

If the patent is ruled invalid Microsoft could lose a lot of cash. People will no longer pay for invalid and existing licensees which would also be likely to push for reduced payments.

Of course, it could all be appealed.