French firm files EU antitrust motion against IBM

* TurboHercules charges IBM with blocking users

* IBM already faces EU antitrust complaint

* IBM says TurboHercules seeking “free ride”

BRUSSELS, March 23 (Reuters) - French software group TurboHercules asked EU antitrust regulators on Tuesday to look into IBM's IBM.N business practices, alleging the U.S.-based company was blocking customers from its open-source technology.

IBM is already the subject of an antitrust complaint by U.S. group T3 Technologies filed last year with the European Commission. [ID:nL9643496]

TurboHercules said it complained to the EU watchdog after IBM refused to license its mainframe operating systems for use with TurboHercules’s mainframe emulator and accused the French firm of violating IBM’s intellectual property. “IBM is preventing customers from using Hercules (TurboHercules’ open-source software) by tying IBM’s mainframe operating system with IBM hardware,” Roger Bowler, TurboHercules chairman, said in a statement.

“This conduct prevents TurboHercules from providing its product to mainframe customers desiring an open-source solution,” he said.

IBM rejected the accusations, saying it was protecting its intellectual property rights.

“TurboHercules is an ‘emulation’ company that seeks a free ride on IBM’s massive investments in the mainframe by marketing systems that attempt to mimic the functionality of IBM mainframes,” IBM said in a statement.

“This is not really any different from those who seek to market cheap knock-offs of brand-name clothing.”

IBM said TurboHercules was a member of organisations funded by rivals such as Microsoft Corp MSFT.O "to attack the mainframe", which is IBM's main business.

TurboHercules, a privately-held company set up in 2009, is a member of a non-profit trade group called the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), which counts Microsoft and Oracle Corp ORCL.O as members, but not IBM.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating allegations by the CCIA that IBM abused its dominance of the mainframe business to squeeze rivals.

“Customers, including nearly all the world’s major businesses and governments, would literally save billions of dollars if competition was allowed to enter this strategic IT market,” said CCIA Chief Executive Ed Black.

In its complaint, T3 accused IBM of preventing sales of competing mainframes by tying the sale of its operating system to its own such hardware and withholding patent licenses. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by David Holmes)