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SCO’s Linux Claims Are Dead — Long Live Linux! August 13, 2007

Posted by Maddog in open source, Technology Issues.

sco_trash.jpgSome questionable endeavors deserve to fail. Some are so dastardly that they deserve to fail in a spectacular manner — with disastrous consequences for those engaged in it. SCO’s anti-Linux lawsuits against Novell and IBM fall into the latter category. Not only is it right for SCO’s claims to be dismissed, SCO should be made to pay dearly for its outrageous attempts to act as the attack dog.

Happily, that’s what seems to be happening. Last Friday, in “Court Rules: Novell owns the UNIX and UnixWare copyrights! Novell has right to waive!”, Groklaw reported that U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball ruled that Novell owns the intellectual property (IP) for Unix, effectively obliterating SCO’s claims not only against Novell but also against IBM. Computerworld also reported the story in “Novell wins rights to Unix copyrights.”

Linux-Watch’s Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, in “SCO Goes Down in Flames: Novell owns Unix”, also wrote:

Putting salt into SCO’s wounds, Kimball also ruled that while “The court … is precluded from granting a constructive trust with respect to the payments SCO received under the 2003 Sun and Microsoft Agreements [story] because there is a question of fact as to the appropriate amount of SVRX Royalties SCO owes to Novell based on the portion of SVRX products contained in each agreement.” In short, SCO owes Novell at least some of the funds it received from its Microsoft and Sun Unix licensing deals, which it used to fuel its anti-Linux lawsuits.

Although no amount was specified, those payments are probably going to make a dent in SCO’s bottom line. The company’s recent performance hasn’t exactly been stellar (see “SCO’s financial decline continues”), and the payouts are not going to make things better for them. Will SCO go under? is it time for SCO’s stockholders to bail? That’s an interesting story worth following.

To make clear the consequences of the decision on SCO’s claims against IBM, here’s the relevant part of the court’s decision (you can read the actual decision on Groklaw as text at this link or you can download it as a PDF file at this link.):

“Therefore, Novell is entitled to a declaration of rights under its Fourth Claim for Relief that it was and is entitled, at its sole discretion, to direct SCO to waive its claims against IBM and Sequent, and SCO is obligated to recognize Novell’s waiver of SCO’s claims against IBM and Sequent.”

Take that SCO! You were silly enough to go down this path in the first place, so now you’re going to pay for it.

The Microsoft Connection

Now here’s an angle that needs some investigating: what’s Microsoft’s role in all this?

The question is a logical follow-up to any real examination of the SCO case because of Microsoft’s past actions. In 2003, Baystar Capital, along with the Bank of Canada, invested US$50 million in SCO. Baystar was referred to SCO by — guess who? — Microsoft. Fast-forward a few years later and you have Microsoft inking a patent deal with Novell, and a little later still Microsoft claims that Linux and other open source programs violate 235 of its patents. Last week the SCO attack on Linux goes down in flames and Novell owns Unix and Unixware. Microsoft, however, is now on good terms with Novell.

All that makes sense if you consider that Microsoft may need protection if it is the one violating intellectual property (perhaps by using open source code and violating open source licenses). Its ridiculous patent claim of 235 violations could be a clever smokescreen to cover up their own violations, and the Novell deal may just give it some protection if any violations on its part are found. That’s just pure speculation on my part, of course, but I’m not alone in thinking Microsoft has something to hide.

For example, in his article, The Reason for All These Patent Deals?, Joe Wilcox made this astute observation:

If Microsoft truly is serious about interoperability—and there is no other hidden objective—the company should be able reach a deal with Red Hat or even Ubuntu without any attached patent strings. I contend that if interoperability agreements continue to hinge on patent deals, Microsoft’s main priority is about protecting somebody against intellectual property violations. That somebody is more likely to be Microsoft than Linspire, Novell or any other company selling Linux.

Makes sense to me!


SCO has released a Statement from SCO Regarding Recent Court Ruling. You might want to compare it to the actual ruling to see how accurate SCO’s take is on what went down.



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