Compuware Files Anti-Trust Suit Against IBM

alleges tying and code theft

Alleging illegal tying, copyright violations, and preferential treatment, longtime mainframe tool vendor Compuware Corp. filed an anti-trust suit against Big Blue Tuesday.

Filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the allegations by the Farmington Hills, Mich.-based company accuse IBM Corp. of tying mainframe management tools to IBM’s compilers and operating systems; preferential selling of IBM products by IBM Global Services; and theft of Compuware code in products such as File Manager 2.0 and Fault Analyzer. Compuware seeks unspecified damagesin a jury trial.

According to Compuware, IBM only began to compete with Compuware in the late 1990’s as IBM began rolling out its own mainframe management tools. Up to that point, IBM freely shared information about upcoming versions of its operating systems and database servers, in order for Compuware’s supporting tools to reach the market with IBM products. The relationship began to disintegrate with the introduction of IBM’s own tools, Compuware says.

The suit was filed on two legal grounds. First, Compuware alleges copyright infringement on the part of IBM. It says it provided IBM with source code from its File-AID and Abend-AID products, which later appeared as part of IBM’s File Manager product. Compuware says bugs and inconsistencies indicate the code was copied and integrated into the product.

Compuware’s suit also rests on the Sherman Anti-Trust Act’s provisions against tying. Under the federal law, it is illegal to require customers to purchase one product in order to buy another product. Compuware believes IBM requires customers to purchase its Debug Tool, which competes with Compuware debuggers, in order to buy IBM’s COBOL, C/C++, and PL/I compilers.

In addition, Compuware alleges File Manager and Fault Analyzer are often tied to the purchase of other unspecified mainframe software tools.

The suit also outlines other anti-competitive behaviors on the part of IBM, including restricting information about its operating system and database servers, which prevents Compuware from developing complete products in a timely fashion, and favoritism toward IBM products on the part of IBM Global Services.

Although Microsoft Corp. has been the anti-trust dog of late, IBM is no stranger to trust-busting litigation. It was the focus of lawsuits from the 1950’s through the early 80’s when IBM submitted to a consent decree limiting the ways it could sell and market its products. Observers often blame the consent decree forIBM’s decline in the 1980’s and early 90’s.

In the mainframe marketplace, IBM still remains supreme. David A. Ettinger, an attorney representing Compuware told the New York Times, “In this market, IBM is even more dominant than Microsoft [is] in personal computer software.”

About the Author

Chris McConnell is Product and Technology Editor for Enterprise Systems.