Microsoft supports the implementation of its exFAT File System in the Linux kernel and announces the cessation of the relevant patents in the open-invention network pool.
Now it’s official:
Microsoft releases the patents of its exFAT File System, which is still a standard on a whole range of storage media, for use in the Linux project.
To support a clean implementation, Microsoft released the full exFAT file system specifications and made it publicly available.
exFAT patents are to become part of the OIN free license pool
Besides, Microsoft aims to include the exFAT patents in the Linux system definition of the Open Invention Network (OIN).
The aim of the OIN is the open and joint use of the patents of the participating companies by the participating companies.
Everyone shares their patents with everyone.
Although Microsoft joined the OIN about a year ago and had already filed 60,000 patents, the exFAT patents were not among them.
This deficiency could be resolved from the first quarter of 2020 if the OIN accepts the submission, which is not a reasonable doubt.
To bring exFAT File System into the Linux kernel, Microsoft does not have to contribute any code and does not announce that.
On the contrary, the free exFAT driver, which is initially developed by Samsung and available for about six years now.
Also, it will be given the honour of being admitted as an official component.
exFAT: Developer encounters patent problems
The discussion, which is now concluded with Microsoft’s favourable decision initiated by the current developer of the exFAT driver, Valdis Klētnieks.
He posted in a developer group the harmless-looking question of what to do to push his revised driver into kernel development.
He then referred to as the unclear patent situation.
Klētnieks then addressed the Microsoft KY Srinivasan, who agreed to resolve the issue.
The result can be found in today’s blog post.
This is exFAT
The exFAT File System specified in 2008 but used earlier in Windows versions.
It developed for the then mobile system Windows CE and represented an extension of the old FAT system from 1980.
Hence the name exFAT for “Extended File Allocation Table”.
The area of application of the exFAT system was from the beginning on flash and other, also external storage media.
For the local hard drives, Microsoft relied on the NTFS system, which in turn could not be used across platforms.
The exFAT driver from Samsung has a fascinating history
It discovered almost by chance by a developer in the source code of Android 3.0 and could be assigned to Samsung as the author.
Because this meant a patent infringement, Samsung responded and put the driver under the GPL license.
After that, the driver sank into insignificance until Valdis Klētnieks took on him and achieved the well-known results.
Previously available exFAT drivers, like those for NTFS, typically work as file system in userspace (FUSE) drivers.
Thus, they do not run in kernel mode but in user mode, reducing the likelihood of system instability.
Also, users without admin rights the use allowed.
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