Ok, so after all the flavours of Microsoft Windows news we have, wait for it... Microsoft legal news!
Here's the gist from Microsoft corporate VP and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing (most imposing job title ever?) Horacio Gutierrez:
"Microsoft has filed an action today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington and in the International Trade Commission (ITC), against TomTom NV and TomTom Inc. for infringement of Microsoft patents. We have taken this action after attempting for more than a year to engage in licensing discussions with TomTom.
We have an established intellectual property licensing program, and the patents involved in this case, relating to innovations in car navigation technology and other computing functionality, have been licensed by many others. In situations such as this, when a reasonable business agreement cannot be reached, we have no choice but to pursue legal action to protect our innovations and our partners who license them. Other companies that utilize Microsoft patents have licensed and we are asking TomTom to do the same. TomTom is a highly respected and important company. We remain open to quickly resolving this situation with them through an IP licensing agreement."
In short it amazes me how this situation has arisen. It's not as if TomTom is secretive about making GPS based systems and you'd think - given its patent claims - Microsoft would've been watching it like a hawk since day one. Personally I suspect in these scenarios the strategy is to let a company become huge (particularly if you're not directly involved in the sector) then go after it for patent infringement as you'll potentially win far more and not put the target off using your technology early in its life.
Either that or I'm just feeling especially cynical today...