We're used to seeing Microsoft's name in the same sentence with the words "antitrust" and "investigation." Intel is no stranger to the investigatory process, either. But until this month, I think I could count on my fingers the number of times I've seen IBM in the headlines for suspicion of unfair business practices.
Reuters reported last week that the Department of Justice opened the investigation after the Computer and Communications Industry Association accused IBM of withdrawing operating systems licenses from customers that used anything but IBM mainframe hardware, and "retaliating" against disloyal partners, among other things. The Justice Department did not repspond to Reuters' request for comment. IBM, on the other hand, released a statement, saying, in part:
IBM intends to cooperate with any inquiries from the Department of Justice. We continue to believe... that IBM is fully entitled to enforce our intellectual property rights and protect the investments that we have made in our technologies.
IBM also pointed out that just two weeks ago, a U.S. District Court in New York threw out an antitrust suit brought against it by software development company T3 Technologies.
Even still, this investigation shouldn't come as much of a surprise. The Obama Administration has said for months that it would crack down on antitrust violations, and we are beginning to see just that. IT Business Edge blogger Rob Enderle isn't sure that approach is the best one. He says:
The current U.S. administration is suddenly focused sharply on the technology and telecommunications industries and unless this focus -- or the government's traditional approach -- to antitrust problems is moderated, it could end up destroying the industries it intends to save.