US patent office to review FAT patent

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has agreed to review Microsoft Corp.'s software patent covering the FAT (file allocation table) file system, in response to a request from a New York-based patent watchdog group.

In April, the Public Patent Foundation, asked the patent office to conduct a review, claiming that previous software patents had already been issued on the same technology and that Microsoft should have never been granted the patent, according to Daniel Ravicher, the foundation's executive director.

"There's presumed to be harm on everyone if a patent is issued where it shouldn't be issued," Ravicher, said in April. "The (FAT) patent is causing immeasurable injury to the public by serving as a tool to enlarge Microsoft's monopoly while also preventing competition."

The patent covers a file system that has been in use since the 1970s. Microsoft was granted the patent in November 1996.

The patent office has now granted the foundation's request, and is beginning the process of reexamining Microsoft's patent, according to a statement from Primary Examiner Charles Rones dated June 3.

In December 2003, Microsoft launched a licensing program that sought a US$0.25 per unit licensing fee for devices such as memory cards and digital cameras that used the FAT technology.

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