IBM Responds to SCO Lawsuit

Big Blue maintains its innocence

In a filing in a U.S. District Court last week in response to The SCO Group’s $1 billion lawsuit, IBM Corp. all but formally said “Not guilty” to the most important charges leveled against it by the embattled Unix vendor.

SCO, meanwhile, now asserts that it has proof that code from its UnixWare operating system has been incorporated into the Linux kernel.

In a lawsuit it filed in early March, SCO charged that IBM had deliberately misappropriated its proprietary Unix source code to help accelerate the development of Linux. The company charged Big Blue with attempting to “improperly destroy the economic value of UNIX.”

In its 18-page return salvo, IBM dismissed SCO’s formal charges as having no basis in fact. “Contrary to Caldera's unsupported assertions, IBM has not misappropriated any trade secrets; it has not engaged in unfair competition; it has not interfered with Caldera's contracts; and it has not breached contractual obligations to Caldera,” IBM maintained in its filing.

Moreover, said Big Blue, SCO is trying to check the momentum of Open Source Software (OSS) development “by improperly seeking to assert proprietary rights over important, widely used technology and impeding the use of that technology by the open-source community.”

SCO CEO Darl McBride and other SCO representatives have repeatedly maintained that the company’s lawsuit isn’t about Linux.

In its filing, however, SCO charged IBM with misappropriating its proprietary Unix source code to accelerate Linux development—to the economic detriment of Unix on Intel-based processors: “It is not possible for Linux to rapidly reach Unix performance standards for complete enterprise functionality without the misappropriation of Unix code, methods or concepts.”

Moreover, in an interview last week with a technology news publication, SCO’s McBride claimed that his company has found “line-by-line” cases in which Linux kernel code matched his company’s own UnixWare code. In the same interview, McBride suggested that the UnixWare code had been “obfuscated” to conceal its origins.

SCO has not yet tendered any evidence in support of this or other claims. Instead, the embattled company insists that it will make its case in court.

Big Blue, for its part, hasn’t yet indicated what kind of legal strategy it will employ to rebut SCO’s claims. A clue, however, may have been offered in last week’s filing, in which IBM took issue with SCO’s account of the history of its ownership of Unix.

SCO contends that it is the sole inheritor of the original Unix intellectual property that AT&T Labs first developed in the late 1960’s. The company says that all major commercial Unix operating systems in use today are based on the Unix System V source code, the rights to which are owned by SCO. IBM disputed this claim, denying that its AIX operating environment is based on SCO’s licensed Unix code.

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.