IBM has confirmed a bombshell suggestion picked up by the Wall Street Journal that it wants retroactive licence fees from anyone who has cloned any member of the Personal Computer family and violated an IBM patent. The company wants as much as 1% of the value of each machine sold before April 1 this year, up to 5% for any sold thereafter. It is not clear how agressive IBM will be in pursuing transgressors who don’t want to clone the Personal System/2, but has made it clear that anyone who approaches it to talk PS/2 licences will be asked to ante up for earlier patent licences before IBM even starts talking about PS/2. Compaq’s Rod Canion said that his company had held talks with IBM about licences, and had been setting aside funds to cover any payments it might have to make, but described the amounts IBM was talking about charging as out of line, adding that with the company’s breadth of patents it could manipulate the entire computer industry. In the UK, Amstrad Plc said that we are not at all phased by it: we are certain that we haven’t used any IBM patents and that our product is entirely our own design. Apricot Computers Plc simply didn’t believe that IBM really intended to pursue MS-DOS clonemakers, and that its real intention was to frighten off PS/2 clonemakers or at least ensure that they paid their full dues. If it had really wanted to pursue MS-DOS clonemakers, it would have announced it in a more direct way, and not just through the pages of the Wall Street Journal.
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