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November 22, 2022

IBM sues Micro Focus accusing it of ‘brazenly stealing’ mainframe software

British software company used its position as an IBM partner to help it copy software, court documents allege.

By Matthew Gooding

IBM is suing British software company Micro Focus, accusing it of “brazenly stealing” IBM’s intellectual property by copying software used by its mainframe systems.

IBM is suing UK software company Micro Focus over copyright (pic: Marko Aliaksandr/Shutterstock)

The copyright lawsuit, filed in US District Court in the Southern District of New York, says Micro Focus’s actions constituted “illegal opportunism, willful infringement, and blatant breach” of its contractual obligations, and “undermine IBM’s significant investments in software innovation”.

Why is IBM suing Micro Focus?

The court filing alleges Micro Focus illegally copied its CICS Transaction Server (CICS TS) software, which is used to organise and run applications on IBM’s mainframe systems for tasks such as booking business travel or running payroll.

A particular facet of the software, CICS TS, allows it to connect to web services, enabling mainframe users to also access data based on other servers. IBM alleges that Micro Focus copied this function, known as WSBIND, and used it in its own Micro Focus Enterprise Suite software, which includes web services implementation.

Micro Focus has been an IBM partner for more than 20 years through the company’s Partner World scheme, and in the court documents, IBM claims it has abused this access to help it copy the software.

Micro Focus could face injunction

Despite the shift the to cloud undertaken by many businesses, mainframes remain big business for IBM, and it released its latest model, the Z16, earlier this year.

An IBM statement released last night says: “IBM has long run successful programs aimed at fostering an ecosystem of developers that create applications for IBM’s mainframe systems, to the benefit of our mutual customers. IBM and its customers rely on these software developers as trusted partners. Micro Focus has broken that trust, a discovery that this suit brings to light.

“Micro Focus has brazenly stolen IBM software and we are going to protect IBM’s product development investment from Micro Focus’ illegal tactics. We’ve made significant investments over many decades in research and development of our industry-leading IBM mainframe system technology, to the great benefit of our trusted partners, our customers and the global economy. We will aggressively defend IBM’s intellectual property against those who attempt to steal it.

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“Our complaint seeks monetary relief as well as an injunction against Micro Focus that would prohibit the company from continuing to harm IBM by illegally copying and distributing our software.”

Micro Focus is currently in the process of being acquired by Canadian rival OpenText for $6bn. The company did not immediately respond to Tech Monitor’s request for comment.

Read more: Snowflake and Microsoft Azure offer data sovereignty to UK users

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