IBM sues Micro Focus for mainframe software copyright infringement

IBM sues Micro Focus for mainframe software copyright infringement

IBM alleges that software partner Micro Focus copied its proprietary file format and broke a contract with the company, in a suit filed in the Southern District of New York.

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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, centres 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.

“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 organisations still have workloads that can’t be moved to the cloud for logistical or regulatory reasons, and so the market has maintained momentum.

Micro Focus is due to be acquired by Canadian enterprise information management company OpenText for $6 billion, in an all-cash deal announced in late August. It’s unclear whether IBM’s suit could complicate that transaction. Micro Focus had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

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