Commission investigating IBM software row
The European Commission has confirmed that it is investigating a complaint against the US computing giant IBM from a European competitor.
A spokesperson for Joaquín Almunia, the European commissioner for competition, said the case involves TurboHercules, a Paris-based software company, which filed a complaint on 23 March.
TurboHercules accuses IBM, which produces hardware and software, of trying to block it from selling software capable of running on IBM servers. The two companies have been engaged in a public war of words, with IBM accusing TurboHercules of producing the software equivalent of counterfeit goods.
TurboHercules accuses IBM of reneging on promises not to use patents as a weapon against software based on open-source codes.
Roger Bowler, TurboHercules’s co-founder, said that IBM has warned the company that it is infringing 173 of IBM’s patents, including two for which IBM promised it would not enforce patent protection.
In 2005, IBM promised to open up access to 500 of its patented products.
Ken Saunders of IBM’s press department said that IBM stood behind the 2005 pledge but said it was conditional, applying only to qualified individuals or companies producing open-source software.
“We have serious questions about whether TurboHercules qualifies,” he said. “TurboHercules is a member of organisations founded and funded by IBM competitors, such as Microsoft, to attack the mainframe. We have doubts about TurboHercules’s motivations.”
Saunders said that TurboHercules is a company that “seeks a free ride” on IBM’s investments by marketing systems that attempt to mimic the functionality of IBM mainframes.
“This is not really any different from those who seek to market cheap knock-offs of brand-name clothing or apparel,” he said.
Bowler has strongly contested these accusations, saying that his firm’s Hercules open-source mainframe emulator had never pretended to be an IBM-brand product.
Bowler described Hercules as an example of the kind of low-cost innovation that outsiders can bring to the IT industry and compared it to Linux, the open-source software that runs Unix and other servers.
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