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SCO Wants to Split IBM/Linux Fight into Two

The SCO Group wants to split off parts of its lawsuit against IBM over Linux code.

In its latest motion filed in federal court in Utah, the company said its copyright infringement and breach of contract claims over Linux should be split into two trials.

SCO's latest court filing doesn't alter any of its major allegations in the case, which center on its past licensing agreements with IBM and on claims that SCO holds copyrights on portions of IBM's AIX and Dynix software that made its way into select Linux kernels.

Rather, SCO's new motion asks the court to spin off into a separate trial several counterclaims IBM made in 2003 in its formal response to SCO's suit. Counterclaims are a common legal strategy through which a company that's sued hits back with some charges of its own.

The IBM counterclaims charged that SCO's UnixWare and Open Server products infringed on four patents owned by IBM. Specifically, the IBM patents are: 4,814,746, "Data compression method"; 4,821,211, "Method of navigating among program menus using a graphical tree menu"; 4,953,209, "Self-verifying receipt and acceptance system for electronically delivered data objects"; and 5,805,785, "Method for monitoring and recovery of subsystems in a distributed/clustered system."

"The discrete issues arising from the breach of the license agreements should not be tried before a jury together with IBM's unrelated patent infringement counterclaims where the only common thread between the licensing agreements claims and the patent counterclaims is the identity of the parties," SCO asserted in its motion arguing for the spin-off.

Along with its new motion, SCO filed a separate, lengthier memo, which sought to provide a broader legal background for its arguments. That document offers up two additional rationales. According to SCO's lawyers, separate trials would promote "fairness" and would also expedite the cases.

"The case revolves around the licensing agreements that govern IBM's use of Unix and its modifications or derivatives, AIX and Dynix," the SCO memo stated. "The difficulties caused by adding IBM's unrelated patent claims to these distinct claims require that the patent issues be resolved in a separate trial, by a separate jury."

Reached at IBM, spokesman Mike Darcy told internetnews.com: "Our attorneys are reviewing the motion. We won't have a comment until we file the response with the court."

SCO officials were not immediately available to comment.

SCO's motion for separate trials comes as its case against IBM, which has in recent months seemed stalled in the courts, may be poised to move forward. Recently, a judge directed SCO to show detailed code to back up its infringement claims against IBM.

The first of several deadlines for SCO to produce that evidence comes in mid-April.

In separate Linux legal matters, SCO is currently enmeshed in a suit against Novell. In addition, Red Hat has sued SCO to stop the latter from making what it called "untrue" claims about its business.

SCO earlier this month also filed its first suits against Linux end users, charging automaker DaimlerChrysler with contract violations and retailer Autozone with copyright infringement.

The latest legal maneuver brings to 121 the number of court motions that have been filed in the case, which was initiated by SCO a year ago this week.