Two Microsoft FAT Patents Rejected

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Microsoft's patent application for its File Allocation Table (FAT) file system technology on Tuesday, however the Redmond company has put on a brave face and told BetaNews that it expects to ultimately be victorious.

In June of last year, the USPTO agreed to review the patent after questions arose surrounding its validity. A group known as the Public Patent Foundation disputed Microsoft's claims to FAT in April 2004, saying it had become ubiquitous as a format and found in many devices.

Many also saw Microsoft's moves as a way to corner the Linux market, which also uses the file system. What resulted was an initial rejection of the patent in September 2004. The rejection this week resulted in the dismissal of patents that allow files in the system to have longer names.

In a statement to BetaNews, Microsoft says that the USPTO has not rejected the company's claims to "prior art" on FAT, technically meaning the company did indeed invent the format in the agency's eyes. The issue, according to David Kaefer, Director of Business Development and IP Licensing at Microsoft, is who should be listed as the inventor.

Microsoft pointed out that the basis of the patent was not rejected.

"None of the prior art submitted by the Public Patent Foundation stood up under examination. The issues that have come up in these reexaminations have nothing to do with non-Microsoft prior art. Instead, the issues involve a question over whom -- at Microsoft -- should be properly listed as an inventor," Kaefer argued.

The fact that the prior art claims still stand gives some reason to believe that once the inventor issues are settled, Microsoft could still prevail on the FAT patent after all.

Representatives for the Public Patent Foundation expressed mixed emotions to the news, saying while they were glad the USPTO had rejected the patents, they were also disappointed that their prior art claims had been refuted.

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