IBM breaks Open Source deal

Biggish Blue has broken its promise not to sue people who use its open source software.

In 2005, IBM announced open access to 500 patents that it owned which it said was “applicable to qualified open-source individuals or companies”. All good stuff and established IBM and Open Source generally.

However this was until a small French outfit called TurboHercules SAS took Biggish Blue to the antitrust authorities at the European Commission, alleging anticompetitive practices by IBM in the mainframe market.

It turns out that TurboHercules was being leant on by IBM for breaking more than 100 of its patents.

Florian Mueller, a lobbyist who works for open-source software companies, wrote in his bog that that two of the patents, 5,613,086 and 5,220,669, were among those that IBM effectively gave away to the open-source world in 2005, pledging that it wouldn’t assert them “against the development, use or distribution of Open Source Software.”

IBM said that the letter had just mentioned a whole bunch of patents that had to do with mainframes. “We did not make any explicit assertions or claims that TurboHercules had violated them. We stand behind the pledge we made in 2005, and also our rights to protect our significant investments in mainframe technology.”

So that is all right then. IBM is not going to mutter about these patents in this case any more right?

Um no. IBM said that it has serious questions about whether TurboHercules qualifies as a serious Open Saucy outfit. “TurboHercules is a member of organizations founded and funded by IBM competitors such as Microsoft to attack the mainframe. We have doubts about TurboHercules’ motivations,” it said.

So, in other words,  if IBM says you are not Open Source you aren’t and therefore can be sued.