IBM accuses mainframe company of patent infringement

IBM has sued Platform Solutions for patent infringement over a mainframe that runs IBM's proprietary software.

IBM says a Californian company has infringed its patents by creating computers that allow customers to run IBM's System z operating systems and software on mainframes from other vendors.

That action amounts to breach of contract and patent infringement, IBM claimed Nov. 29 in a lawsuit filed against Platform Solutions (PSI) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Founded in 1999, PSI is now testing its product with beta customers, and preparing to launch it in 2007. PSI's emulator system enables a server using Intel's Itanium 2 processors to simultaneously run operating systems including IBM's z/OS, Microsoft's Windows, Linux and Unix.

IBM's current generation of System z products include zSeries servers and System z9 servers, both running on IBM's 64-bit z/Architecture and z/OS operating system, and both using software such as IBM's Database 2 (DB2) and Customer Information Control System (CICS).

From PSI's point of view, its "patented microcode technology" enables standard, open-system Itanium processors to run the IBM z/OS operating system. But IBM describes those same machines as servers that mimic IBM computer architectures so they can run IBM software. IBM claims that practice violates its software licenses, and has asked a judge to assign damages and terminate PSI's licenses.

"PSI's marketing program is a blatant attempt to infringe on IBM's intellectual property and to convert to PSI the fruits of IBM's substantial investments in developing computer systems, architectures, operating systems and other software," the lawsuit said. In turn, PSI has threatened to sue IBM for violating antitrust laws by refusing to extend the software license, the lawsuit said. So IBM also asked the judge to deny that claim.

The two companies were once on better terms. In August, PSI demonstrated its emulator system at a meeting of SHARE, the IBM user group. A spokesman for SHARE said the group had a practice of declining comment on IBM management and legal issues.

One possible defense by PSI will be to argue that Ronald Hilton, the company's founder and chief technology officer, actually holds a patent for the emulator system. PSI did not respond to a request for comment.

A statement on PSI's Web site says, "PSI is very disappointed that IBM has resorted to litigation. While we recognize that we are a competitor of IBM, PSI has always sought and continues to seek a normal commercial relationship. ... PSI is confident in its legal position."

A spokesman for IBM declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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