Microsoft has a patent on File Allocation Table (FAT) file system arrangement. This patent is being used to charge royalties from Android device manufacturers. While we can argue whether such royalties are anti-business and also whether such patents should be granted, I would like to ask how valid such patents are in places of common exchange.
FAT is a file arrangement used by DOS. Due to the popularity of DOS, many vendors started used FAT. Even after NTFS came into the main sphere along with Linux file systems like ext3 and the like, vendors continued to use FAT for storage devices as it is simple and straightforward.
The question is, should such technologies that form the building blocks of operating systems be patented? I believe that such technologies should be given some other protection and not patent protection. In case of an operating system like DOS, allowing a patent for FAT means that other vendors cannot provide their own implementations. I would be OK for a patent on FAT if DOS supported some other file system, thus allowing users to make a choice. If there is no choice, an operating system should only provide a specification for FAT, while leaving implementation to vendors. As long as other vendors do not use Microsoft code for providing FAT support, it should be OK.
A patent on such building blocks is like asking people to pay for drawing water from a specific well and also mandating that using water from any other well is a punisable offence.
In summary, basic building block technologies like file systems and device drivers should not be granted patent protection. Instead, vendors should be asked to provide a specification for such blocks, that can be implemented independantly by vendors.