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Compuware Sues IBM

Compuware Corp. executives are red in the face over Big Blue's efforts to swipe software source code and shut them out of the software development market.

A lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Eastern Michigan Tuesday, charging IBM with "misappropriating and using Compuware intellectual property in IBM mainframe products," the complaint read.

The extent of the damages wasn't mentioned in the lawsuit, claiming only redress and compensation for lost revenues and profits and a ruling whether IBM was violating intellectual property laws and antitrust laws.

Compuware is a software developer whose biggest asset is IBM's range of distributed computers and mainframe computers. The company creates debugging, database and fault diagnosis applications, used by companies that house IBM and other mainframe computers, as well as IBM software products.

Joseph Nathan, Compuware president, claims IBM is taking the source code they provide the company for documentation purposes and using it for products in the IBM global services division, even steering customers away from Compuware.

"IBM has attempted to enter the mainframe software tools market and compete with Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) by misappropriating Compuware's source code and even copying our user manual," he said. "We are filing this lawsuit in an effort to stop IBM's illegal practices and promote open competition in the ISV marketplace."

The lawsuit points particularly to IBM's new "File Manager" software tool, which is "substantially similar" to Compuware's own software tool and even has the same software bugs in the program. IBM's file manager user's manual also includes, they say, passages lifted entirely from their own guide.

In addition to intellectual property theft, the lawsuit maintains IBM's global services division is practices anti-competitive and monopolistic practices to elbow out the competition.

Big Blue has had a long-standing tradition of handing out pre-release copies of its software and hardware data so ISVs like Compuware can improve its own software tools. Now that its global services division is competing with Compuware, that service has essentially stopped.

In an email sent to Compuware last year in response to requests for a beta version of a new software product, IBM responded:

"Due to increasingly competitive relationship with Compuware we cannot give you a beta version...we are working feverishly to make our (product) better than (yours). Therefore, shipping a beta to you would be seen as helping the enemy, however untrue that may be."

According to the suit, IBM is also tying software tools directly to its software products, shutting out the competition.

The suit has an eerie resemblance to the current court wranglings between Microsoft and its competitors, who say the software giant is tying Microsoft applications (like Internet Explorer) with its operating system.

"Our sole mission with the lawsuit is to ask the courts to require fair play in the marketplace so that mainframe customers are free to select the software tools that provide the best value and performance," Nathan said.