The end of Microsoft's patent extortion: FAT patent struck down in EU
Today the Bundespatentgericht (Federal Patent Court of Germany, BPatG) held a full-day nullity (invalidation) trial at the conclusion of which Judge Vivian Sredl, who presides over the Second Nullity Senate, announced the ruling that EP0618540 on a "common name space for long and short filenames" is invalid in its entirety (including Microsoft's proposed amendments) because the court found that all of the elements distinguishing the patented invention from the prior art (which includes a Linus Torvalds post to a mailing list) did not satisfy the technicity requirement under European patent law. Microsoft can and presumably will appeal this decision to the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice, BGH), the country's highest court apart from a specialized constitutional court.
I've always thought that it was ridiculous for Microsoft to charge money for FAT. They tried it before with Linux vendors and failed. They only managed to do it more recently with Android OEM's because they scared them into submission. That was it. Nothing more or less about it. B&N almost invalidated FAT in US, too, but when they saw that was coming they decided to "invest" (cough settle) and pay them $300 million at the time. $300 million!! You can tell just from that alone that B&N's invalidation of FAT was imminent, and they thought it's worth paying $300 million, because if the others keep believing it's a serious patent, they'll make billions from it.
This ruling applies across EU, not just Germany, and here's why I think it will stay - This is Germany, the company that LOVES patents, and yet they struck down Microsoft's most important patent. There's no recovering from this. If Germany invalidated it, then it's all over for FAT.
Also if FAT falls, all the other patents Microsoft might keep above Android OEM's heads are useless in comparison, so expect Samsung to give a big "screw you" to Microsoft soon, and stop paying their patents (especially since Samsung seems to be getting increasingly greedier about making profits on their devices lately, and they're probably pretty pissed off about Microsoft buying Nokia, too). Microsoft won't dare sue Samsung. But if Samsung gets out of the deal, the others will soon stop paying Microsoft, too.
Microsoft must be freaking out right now. They're on very shaky grounds here, and they were already using the billions they got from Android OEM's to cover the billions in *losses* for the Xbox division, and that accounting trick won't work for long now.