July 15, 2024

Tyna Woods

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IBM sues Micro Focus for mainframe software copyright infringement

IBM sues Micro Focus for mainframe software copyright infringement

IBM has filed a civil suit against partner Micro Focus in federal district court in New York, alleging that the British software company had violated its partnership agreement and violated IBM’s patents in selling its “Micro Focus Web Services.”

The suit, according to IBM’s initial complaint, centers on a “web service binding file” – a copyrighted software format that IBM said is used for mapping data. The company accuses UK-based Micro Focus of copying the file structure and several other features of the WSBIND format, in violation of IBM’s intellectual property rights.

Micro Focus has posted a public statement in response to IBM’s lawsuit, saying that IBM’s claims are “entirely without merit,” and that it expects that the suit will have no effect on its pending $6 billion acquisition by OpenText, which it still expects to close in the first three months of 2023.

IBM, however, highlighted what it claimed are similarities between IBM and Micro Focus code.

“These striking similarities indicate that Micro Focus copied elements of IBM’s copyrighted Works to create a derivative work in at least Micro Focus Enterprise Developer and Micro Focus Enterprise Server,” the complaint read. “There is no way such extensive similarity could arise through attempts to meet similar functional requirements, or as a result of coincidence.”

IBM asserted that Micro Focus acquired its code via a partner program that allowed for limited use of IBM’s intellectual property, then used that code to create its own product offerings in competition with IBM.

IBM claims Micro Focus developers breached trust

“IBM has long run successful programs aimed at fostering an ecosystem of developers that create applications for IBM’s mainframe systems, to the benefit of our mutual customers,” IBM said in an official blog post about the lawsuit. “IBM and its customers rely on these software developers as trusted partners. Micro Focus has broken that trust, a discovery that this suit brings to light.”

The complaint argues for an unspecified sum of monetary damages, as well as an injunction against Micro Focus to prohibit it from selling the allegedly duplicated software. IBM said it will defend its mainframe copyrights vigorously.

“We’ve made significant investments over many decades in research and development of our industry-leading IBM mainframe system technology,” the blog post said. “We will aggressively defend IBM’s intellectual property against those who attempt to steal it.”

Despite the industrywide focus on cloud computing, IBM has reported strong profitability for its mainframe segment as recently as last month, in its third quarter results. Many organizations still have workloads that can’t be moved to the cloud for logistical or regulatory reasons, and so the market has maintained momentum.

(This story has been updated with a Micro Focus statement regarding the IBM lawsuit.)

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