RealTime IT News

SCO Wants Copyright Damages in Linux Claim

By Jim Wagner and Erin Joyce

Now that it has registered for a copyright on the Unix V code at the heart of its Linux intellectual property challenge, The SCO Group is trying to add two claims of copyright infringement to its $3 billion lawsuit against IBM .

A spokesman for the Linden, Utah-based company said two copyright infringement claims that SCO wants to add to its contract dispute with IBM over Linux could increase the size of the damages in the dispute by a billion on each claim, which could potentially bring the damages to $5 billion.

A judge's ruling on SCO Group's motion to add copyright claims is expected within a week after a hearing on the matter and other issues in Salt Lake City Friday.

The latest twist in the ongoing legal battle among The SCO Group, IBM, as well as other Linux vendors Novell and Red Hat , in a sense puts the horse back in front of the cart in the case by putting copyright at the top of an intellectual property dispute over Linux.

The SCO Group claims that IBM let parts of SCO's Unix V operating system slip into the Linux open source operating system as part of a contract violation dispute between the companies. The original lawsuit against IBM alleged that IBM shared trade secrets regarding Unix with members of the free software community.

SCO Group has also threatened legal action against companies that deploy Linux if they don't pay licensing fees for parts of the free operating system that SCO claims comes from its Unix code.

According to a motion filed by The SCO Group this week, the company is seeking to expand its contract dispute with IBM to include copyright in order to "streamline the pleadings and [add] claims that have arisen since the filing of the case."

SCO Group spokesman Marc Modersitzki said the company is not removing its contract dispute from the claim. "That's still at the heart of the dispute" over the contract that SCO had with IBM, he said. But now that it has registered its copyright on the Unix V operating system to which it claims ownership, the case is expected to get to the heart of the matter: whether Linux contains lines of code that SCO Group can claim belongs to the company and not the open-source community that distributes Linux versions for free.

Modersitzki said the company has not ruled out how much higher the damage claims could go as part of its motion to include two copyright claims to the dispute. But first, a judge needs to rule on the motion to include copyright, while another, related case involving Novell's claim to the same Unix code is also settled.

Novell has also challenged SCO's ownership of Unix System V copyrights and patents, claiming that when Novell sold Unix System V to SCO in 1995, the asset purchase agreement did not transfer the copyrights and patents.

In January, SCO filed suit against Novell, alleging copyright violations and interference with commerce. On the code front, SCO alleges that Novell has improperly filed copyright registrations for Unix technology it says is covered by SCO's copyrights. SCO also charges Novell with making false public statements regarding the ownership of Unix and UnixWare.