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IBM faces £3m e-tailer claim over WebSphere and Net Commerce

IBM is being sued for £3m by an American internet retailer because the store used an IBM e-commerce system which, it alleges, contained patented technology from two other companies.

IBM is being sued for £3m by an American internet retailer because the store used an IBM e-commerce system which, it alleges, contained patented technology from two other companies.

The court complaint filed by fruit seller Harry & David in the US said that the company purchased WebSphere and Net Commerce software to create an internet shop to sell its products online.

However, the complaint alleges the software contained technology patented by Charles E. Hill & Associates and cash machine specialist NCR, and that IBM failed to notify Harry & David or defend the company when it was ultimately sued by Hill.

The retailer also claims that IBM continued to sell upgrades of the e-commerce system to Harry & David as recently as 2005.

In that same year, NCR told Harry & David that its use of the e-commerce software infringed its patents, and Harry & David had to buy a licence to use the software. Then, in June 2007, Hill sued Harry & David in a Texas court and the company was forced to settle.

"Despite IBM's knowledge that its infringement could subject Harry and David to claims for patent infringement, and despite its knowledge that Hill in fact intended to sue IBM's customers for their use of E-commerce Programs, IBM took no action to protect Harry and David from Hill's lawsuit or to inform Harry and David of the potential of a Hill suit," the retailer said in court documents.

IBM did not immediately return a request for comment. An NCR spokesman said the company did not comment on ongoing legal cases.

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