After years of using its patents to profit from open source products, the software giant has had a change of heart and the company made 60,000 of its own patents open source last year. Now Microsoft is continuing its open source push by supporting the addition of its exFAT patents to the Linux kernel.
ExFAT is based on the file allocation table (FAT) file system architecture which was one of the first file systems used on floppy disks. FAT later became Microsoft’s file system for MS-DOS, Windows and many other applications. The company created exFAT to extend FAT to flash memory storage devices including USB drives and SD cards in 2006.
In a blog post, Microsoft distinguished engineer and Linux Foundation board member, John Gossman explained why the company decided to bring exFAT to Linux, saying:
“It’s important to us that the Linux community can make use of exFAT included in the Linux kernel with confidence. To this end, we will be making Microsoft’s technical specification for exFAT publicly available to facilitate development of conformant, interoperable implementations. We also support the eventual inclusion of a Linux kernel with exFAT support in a future revision of the Open Invention Network’s Linux System Definition, where, once accepted, the code will benefit from the defensive patent commitments of OIN’s 3040+ members and licensees.”
With the release of the next edition of the Linux System Definition during the first quarter of 2020, any member of OIN will be able to use exFAT without be required to pay a patent royalty. Membership to the open source patent protection consortium is also free for any company that is willing to share its patents with others regardless of whether they have any patents of their own.