M$ To Demand Royalties on Pre-Formatted Media

Spotted via Dan Gillmore (“As a colleague said when he sent this link out in an e-mail, he had to double check the date of this posting to make sure it wasn't an April Fool's joke.”): Digital Photography Review reports on Microsoft's FAT charges:

Microsoft will soon be charging manufacturers of flash memory card devices and those which use them $0.25 per unit or up to $250,000 to use the FAT filesystem. For those who are unaware the FAT file system was developed by Microsoft back in 1976 and has become the standard file system for all digital still cameras. Microsoft owns patents to the FAT File System but for many years hasn't even hinted that it may one day decide to charge for it. These new licenses appear to come into effect immediately and specifically make mention of 'compact flash memory cards' and 'portable digital still cameras'.

Patents, unlike copyrights, are only for a limited time. Even so, there's something unsavory about creating a de facto industry standard, never once suggesting you might charge for the use of it, sitting back and watching everyone adopt it, then sending out bills. I don't know any patent law, but there ought to be some sort of equitable limit on this for not just sleeping on your rights, but actively allowing the world to think a standard is in the public domain.

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