RealTime IT News

SCO Gives SGI Notice of IRIX Termination

SCO Group , already embroiled in a legal struggle with IBM over allegations that Big Blue breached its Unix contract with SCO by releasing portions of its AIX operating system to the open source community, appears to have now set its sights on Silicon Graphics Inc. for much the same reason.

In SGI's annual 10-K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the company revealed that SCO had sent notice that it plans to terminate SGI's Unix license for IRIX, much as it did with IBM over AIX.

A number of industry watchers have pointed to the possibility that SGI would be a target for SCO, especially after SCO pointed to SGI's XFS journaling file system as one of the key Unix technologies that it claims was improperly submitted to the open source community.

"We recently received a notice from SCO Group stating its intention to terminate our fully paid license to certain Unix-related code, under which we distribute our IRIX operating system, on the basis that we have breached the terms of such license," the company said in its filing. "We believe that the SCO Group's allegations are without merit and that our fully paid license is nonterminable. Nonetheless, there can be no assurance that this dispute with SCO Group will not escalate into litigation, which could have a material adverse effect on SGI, or that SCO Group's intellectual property claims will not impair the market acceptance of the Linux operating system."

While SGI developed the XFS technology, SCO maintains that it has rights over derivative works created based on its Unix intellectual property.

"There have been violations of their contract through contributions by SGI to Linux of Unix System V derivative code," SCO spokesman Blake Stowell told internetnews.com. Stowell said the contributions include both derivative code and line-by-line Unix System V code.

He added that the letter was sent to SGI in August giving them 60 days to remedy the situation.

An SGI spokesperson told internetnews.com that SGI responded to the letter by asking for more details, "since the letter is very vague about what they mean by a breach, we need more information from them so we understand what they're talking about."

However, the spokesperson said that SGI does not believe it has breached its contract, nor does it believe SCO has the power to terminate its Unix license.

"Our license is fully paid and it is unterminable," she said. "We don't believe that they can terminate the license and we don't believe that we are in breach of contract, but we have yet to receive specific information."

Stowell said SCO, at this time, has no plans to sue SGI.

Meanwhile, SCO's multi-billi on dollar suit against IBM is proceeding. On Sept. 25, IBM filed an amended countersuit in the United States District Court for the District of Utah, citing breach of contract, violation of the Lanham Act, unfair competition, intentional interference with prospective economic relations, unfair and deceptive trade practices, breach of the GNU General Public License (GPL), promissory estoppel, copyright infringement, and four charges of patent infringement.

"These counterclaims arise from SCO's efforts wrongly to assert proprietary rights over important, widely-used technology and to impede the use of that technology by the open source community," IBM said in its countersuit. "SCO has misused, and is misusing, its purported rights to the Unix operating system developed originally by Bell Laboratories, then a research arm of AT&T Corp., to threaten destruction of competing operating systems known as AIX, Dynix and Linux, and to extract windfall profits for its unjust enrichment."

Additionally, IBM claimed that SCO has infringed a number of IBM copyrights and patents. On the copyright front, IBM said SCO took copyrighted source code made available by IBM under the GPL, included that code in its Linux products, "and copied, modified, sublicensed and/or distributed those products other than as permitted under the GPL."

As for patents, IBM claimed SCO has infringed four of its patents by "making, using, selling and/or offering to sell a variety of products, including but not limited to: 'UnixWare,' a Unix operating system for Intel and AMD processor-based computer systems; 'Open Server,' an operating system platform; 'SCO Manager,' a Web-based remote systems management solution for management of Linux and SCO Unix systems; and "Reliant HA,' 'clustering' software that permits interconnection of multiple servers to achieve redundancy."

For its part, SCO scorned IBM's assertions about the GPL.

"In this amended complaint IBM asserts that SCO has violated the GNU General Public License (GPL), and based on this violation has then violated certain IBM copyrights," SCO said in a statement Monday. "IBM, not SCO, has brought the GPL into the legal controversy between the two companies. SCO believes that the GPL -- created by the Free Software Foundation to supplant current U.S. copyright laws -- is a shaky foundation on which to build a legal case. By contrast, SCO continues to base its legal claims on well-settled United States contract laws and United States copyright laws."

SCO also noted that the GPL has not faced a full legal test, and "SCO believes that it will not stand up in court."