Back in 1989, Informix Software Inc filed a suit against TransTOOLs SA, alleging that the Madrid-based software specialist had copied Informix’s products when developing the database TransTOOLs 2.4. Informix won the first round of this legal battle when in January of this year, a Madrid court said that TransTOOLS had infringed Informix’s intellectual property rights […]
Back in 1989, Informix Software Inc filed a suit against TransTOOLs SA, alleging that the Madrid-based software specialist had copied Informix’s products when developing the database TransTOOLs 2.4. Informix won the first round of this legal battle when in January of this year, a Madrid court said that TransTOOLS had infringed Informix’s intellectual property rights and ordered TransTOOLs to remove the product from the market and to pay compensation. TransTOOLs appealed, which means that another two or three years will pass before the case is resolved. The court found that 120 pages of TransTOOLs’ 700-page manual bore similarities to the Informix manual and that some error messages and commands were the same. TransTOOLs’ general manager, Javier Ollero, has had plenty to say about the matter recently. He likens the situation to the story of David and Goliath and feels that Informix’s statement are just sour grapes. TransTOOLs 2.4 was a better product than the product Informix had at the time and now our Multibase is superior to any Informix product as well. Informix technology hasn’t evolved as ours has and now they’re just using the decision against us as a sales argument. They deliberately prolonged the legal proceedings to raise doubts about TransTOOLs and have tried to spread alarm among our users by their statements to the press. My users are not migrating to Informix products, as the American company is implying. Ollero also believes that a lot of fuss was made at the time, but now the matter has lost all importance, since TransTOOLs 2.4 was a product that was only marketed between May and October 1989. The company went on to produce the 3.0 version, which nobody has ever complained about, and since 1990 it has marketed the Multibase line of products, which is based on totally different technology. Ollero says the sentence to be unjust and inexact and he is concerned that Spanish law is out of step with technological development. Concepts such as interoperability and compatibility, key terms in the computing world, which do not mean copying, have simply not been understood by the legal powers. The source codes of the two programs have not been compared, because Informix refused to sanction it. This invalidates the whole ruling since all that has been compared are the external characteristics.
Make both products compatible
Ollero claims that similarities in error messages and some commands were deliberately sought, in order to make both products compatible. The crazy thing is, if we had really copied Informix’s technology, but there had not been any similarity between manuals, error messages and so forth, according to the criteria of the court, we would have been acquitted, Ollero maintains. Finally, he points out that neither the legal proceedings nor the decision have had any negative effect on sales – the company grew 50% in 1993 to a turnover of $3.3m. Informix has not had quite so much to say, but has issued a statement saying it does not intend to enter into further discussion with TransTOOLs. Informix adds that as far as slanging matches over products are concerned, the users have the final word. Informix’s Spanish arm is also doing well, with turnover up 68% at $12.1m in 1993.