Like many western nations that built up their industries under protective laws and now demand that developing countries remove restrictions that they relied on we see Microsoft doing much the same with Tom Tom, as ZDNet points out when discussing why Microsoft are eager to avoid talking about the details of their patent case..
The TomTom claims cover such things as a multitasking computer on which you can run programs, in a car. A wireless Internet-connected computer, in a car. And how to create long file names in the MS-DOS filing system–a fix introduced in Windows 95 because MS-DOS is a direct descendent of 1974’s vintage 8-bit CP/M operating system. A direct descendant? More a bastard child: MS-DOS helped itself freely to many of CP/M’s design concepts, in some detail. But those were the days when Bill Gates could say that software patents had the potential to put the industry at “a complete standstill” and with good reason. If the sort of protection Microsoft now claims for itself had been available to CP/M then, Microsoft would never have created its monopoly, nor amassed a fraction of its power.
Hopefully Tom Tom now being a member of the Open Invention Network will give Microsoft pause for thought. As regards how the system currently works, I cannot put it better than how ZDNet sum it up:
The patent system is not just broken, it is poisonous. It works by fear, using the civil courts as cudgels in the hands of bullies.
Sadly I suspect it’s unlikely to change in the near future.. 🙁