Novell Enters SCO Battle

SCO Group at odds with Big Blue, Linux – and now Novell

Last week the SCO Group’s battle against IBM Corp. and Linux grew larger when Novell Inc. challenged SCO's claims to exclusive ownership of Unix System V copyrights and patents.

Orem, Utah-based Novell says that the asset purchase agreement it entered into with SCO in 1995 did not, in fact, transfer ownership of Unix System V copyrights and patents to SCO. Moreover, in a statement posted on its Web site last week, Novell claimed that SCO itself had recently asked it to transfer ownership of the Unix System V copyrights.

"To Novell's knowledge, the 1995 agreement governing SCO's purchase of UNIX from Novell does not convey to SCO the associated copyrights," said Novell Chairman and CEO Jack Messman in a letter to SCO. "We believe it unlikely that SCO can demonstrate that it has any ownership interest whatsoever in those copyrights. Apparently you [SCO] share this view, since over the last few months you have repeatedly asked Novell to transfer the copyrights to SCO, requests that Novell has rejected."

SCO has charged that Unix System V code and concepts have been wrongfully incorporated into Linux. At the same time, the embattled vendor has thus far refused to disclose examples in kind.

In this regard, Novell’s letter also demanded that SCO produce evidence to back up its allegations. “What specific code was copied from UNIX System V? Where can we find this code in Linux? Who copied this code? Why does this alleged copying infringe SCO's intellectual property?”

SCO, for its part, says that its case isn’t about Unix System V copyrights. “The copyright issues are not important to our current enforcement actions and anything happening in the first place,” said SCO CEO Darl McBride during a teleconference last .

Instead, McBride maintains, SCO’s dispute with Linux is based on contracts IBM and other vendors have signed with the embattled vendor to license the Unix System V libraries and source code. In a statement released last week, SCO asserted that even in the absence of ownership of the Unix System V copyrights and patents, it has the contractual right to prevent what it called “improper donations of Unix code, methods, or concepts into Linux by any Unix vendor”—such as, it has charged, Big Blue.

As for Novell’s claims, McBride accused that company of trying to “curry favor with the Linux community.”

In spite of its downplaying of copyrights and patents, McBride acknowledged that SCO would at some point settle the issue with Novell. “We’ll be settling those [claims that Novell has made] in court,” he asserted.

Chris Sontag, VP and GM of SCO’s SCOSource intellectual property licensing initiative, has said SCO will disclose evidence of “improperly donated” Unix code and concepts to concerned organizations willing to sign non-disclosure agreements.

On Friday, McBride said SCO will make good on its offer this month. “We're going to show hundreds of lines of code,” he promised.

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About the Author

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