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EU may be lubricating IBM anti-trust probe

Mainframe scuffle primed, yet muffled

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European Union regulators may be preparing for an anti-trust review of IBM, following on the complaints of start-up mainframe challenger, Platform Solutions (PSI).

Bloomberg reports today that the EU is gathering information on IBM's mainframe business, citing two anonymous sources close to the case. The request for such data could mark the earliest stages of an official review into the mainframe claims.

Platform Solutions, which makes Itanium-based servers capable of running IBM's mainframe software, has lobbed similar anti-trust complaints against Big Blue stateside as well. The firm argues that IBM is trying to kill mainframe market competition by refusing to support customers running its software on PSI's systems.

PSI filed its complaint with the European Commission last October. It claims IBM violates an EC prohibition on abuse of market dominance by refusing to supply interface information about its mainframe computers, as well as refusing mainframe licenses to third parties.

IBM has also filed a lawsuit back at PSI in America, charging it with patent infringement.

An inquiry into IBM's mainframe business could suggest the EU determined there's at least some possible merit to PSI's antitrust complaint.

EU antitrust regulators aren't obligated to pursue the cases brought before them. The Commission's next step will be deciding whether to launch a formal probe into the matter. ®

Update:

"The case is progressing in both Europe and in the U.S," said IBM spokesman Fred McNeese ... "IBM has spent great time and expense developing its technology and will defend its intellectual property rights vigorously. We also are confident that the Commission will protect IBM's property rights and reject PSI's claims. It is no violation of competition laws for IBM to rightfully seek to prevent PSI from selling a product built through the violation of IBM's intellectual property rights."

We're awaiting official comments from PSI.

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