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Japan has not taken at all kindly to the news that IBM has homed in on Matsushita Electric Industrial Co accusing the company of ripping off the BIOS of the Personal Computer in its FX-800 machine (CI No 628) – not least because under local rules, the infringement was a minor one. Japanese journalists point out that under local law it may not even be possible to copyright a BIOS, although the ruling that microcode is no different from any other software in the Intel suit against NEC is accepted by some as a precedent. Also raising eyebrows is the use of percentages in determining whether copyright has been infringed – below 30%, no infringement, above 80%, a copy. In Matsushita’s case the commonality was put at 32%, which demonstrates IBM’s implacable attitude towards any infringement of its intellectual property, in the Personal Computer arena as much as in mainframe software. Shigeru Hayakawa, the senior managing director of Matsushita, called a press conference at which he revealed that US customs at the port of entry in Seattle tested the machines using an inspection floppy from IBM, and notified Matsushita of the infringement at the end of January. Matsushita conducted an internal investigation and admitted the violation, putting it down to a design error. He also revealed that Matsushita paid $1.92m in settlement for 1,500 machines sold in the US, and 500 sold in Europe. The company is also withdrawing 2,000 machines in warehouses in US and will defer further exports. He also denied that IBM had made any request to inspect Matsushita factories.

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CBR Staff Writer

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