IBM has denied breaking its '500 patents pledge' to open-source companies, despite news emerging this week that it has threatened to sue open-source software company TurboHercules for patent infringement.
IBM has encouraged the development of open-source software in the past by being a keen contributor to the Linux kernel and many other open-source projects. The firm made a pledge in 2005 which allowed open-source developers to use 500 IBM patents to build new technology.
However, IBM started legal proceedings late last year against TurboHercules, which develops an open-source emulator that runs freeware on IBM's System Z mainframes.
IBM said in a letter to TurboHercules last month that it intends to enforce two patents used by the open-source firm, even though they were included in the 2005 list.
The move has disappointed many in the open-source community. Florian Mueller, a campaigner for open-source software and patent reform, accused IBM of hypocrisy and called for "regulatory intervention".
Mueller also asserted that IBM is using "patent warfare" to protect the revenue stream generated from what he alleges is a mainframe monopoly.
TurboHercules has now raised an anti-trust lawsuit in France, claiming that IBM is not allowing its operating system to run on anything other than an IBM computer.
However, IBM released a statement yesterday attempting to clarify the situation, and defended its position by arguing that the pledge was applicable only to "qualified open-source individuals or companies".
The company expressed doubts as to whether TurboHercules should be included in this definition because it had been funded by IBM competitors such as Microsoft to attack the mainframe.
Mueller has now claimed that IBM is issuing conflicting statements from different parts of the company, and that the vendor had not mentioned until now that the pledge contained certain qualifications.
"All that has happened is that IBM has put out inconsistent statements and still has not said clearly and affirmatively that TurboHercules meets the one and only criterion defined in the pledge," said Mueller in a blog post.
"More than anything else, IBM appears confused and, with its own confusion, maybe deliberately trying to confuse everyone else."
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