Wednesday, 07 April 2010 11:37

IBM breaks patent pledge to FOSS community

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IBM has broken a promise it made in 2005 to FOSS developers regarding the use of 500 patents it owns, pledging to allow the free use of these patents by those who developed these genres of software.


Irked by an anti-trust complaint against it, filed by TurboHercules, a Paris-based company that is trying to monetise a open source mainframe emulator known as Hercules, IBM has written to the company, pointing out a list of 106 patents which it claims TurboHercules is infringing.

There are also 67 pending patents in the list. Two of the 500 patents which IBM promised would be freely available to FOSS practitioners are in the list.

According to its website, Hercules "is an open source software implementation of the mainframe System/370 and ESA/390 architectures, in addition to the new 64-bit z/Architecture. Hercules runs under Linux, Windows (98, NT, 2000, and XP), Solaris, FreeBSD, and Mac OS X (10.3 and later)."

TurboHercules is the first firm to try and make money off Hercules. According to the company's website, "the niche we see for TurboHercules is to focus on ancillary workloads such as mainframe education, training, demonstrations, pre- and post-processing, data preparation, archiving, development and testing. However, IBM has restricted the use of its operating system software to IBM mainframes only.

"But, there is an exception. The worldwide IBM Customer Agreement clearly states that 'if the designated machine is inoperable, the customer may use another machine temporarily.' Disaster recovery / business continuity is an ideal fit for TurboHercules since the backup and related communications occur without the need to run any IBM software on the TurboHercules machine."

IBM's letter to TurboHercules, dated March 11, says TurboHercules would infringe on a large number of patents given that it admits it has emulated significant parts of IBM's proprietary instruction set architecture.  TurboHercules' co-founder is Roger Bowler, the creator of Hercules.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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