40-year-old IBM antitrust case ends

The Justice Department plans to end a 40-year-old antitrust regulation of IBM.

The Justice Department ended an early chapter in computing history by announcing plans to terminate a 40-year-old antitrust regulation of IBM.

The department entered its consent decree against IBM in 1956 to prevent Big Blue from becoming a monopoly in the market for punch-card tabulating and, later, electronic data-processing machines. The decree required IBM to sell its computers as well as lease them and to service and sell parts for computers that IBM no longer owned.

While portions of the consent decree involving PCs and workstations were ended earlier this year, the Justice Department has still been enforcing antitrust policies against IBM's bigger systems, including AS/400 mini-computers and System 390 mainframes.

Now, the government is proposing to terminate even this part of the original consent decree, citing changes in industry competition. The department wants to end its scrutiny of mini-computer sales in four years and mainframe sales in five.

Department attorneys filed the proposal to terminate the consent decree with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, which must still approve the proposal.

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