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Red Hat, SCO Legal Case In Holding Pattern

UPDATED: SCO Group officials said they are pleased with a U.S. District Court of Delaware ruling that delays a lawsuit initiated by Red Hat last year, despite the judge's denial of their own October motion to dismiss the case entirely.

Blake Stowell, a spokesperson for the Lindon, Utah, company, said the ruling lets its team of lawyers focus on the main objective, its lawsuit against IBM .

SCO claims in its suit against IBM that the Unix System V source code and derivative Unix code have been misappropriated into Linux. Red Hat then filed suit against SCO over those claims, asserting that SCO may have distributed some of its proprietary code under an open source license.

"While the court didn't honor our motion to dismiss this case, we're pleased that this case is being stayed and will allow us to concentrate our legal resources on the other litigation we have at hand right now," he told internetnews.com.

He went on to say both Red Hat and SCO hadn't had to expend much in litigation the past six months, while they waited for a judge to rule on SCO's motion to dismiss. When asked whether the company is worried the Delaware judge will base the case off the Utah ruling, in effect making it a double or nothing situation for SCO, he conceded that's one way of looking at it.

"I think the judge is looking for a decision with the Utah case before she'll decide how to proceed with this one," he said.

Red Hat's seven-count lawsuit against SCO in August 2003 sought to place onus on the company to prove its Unix System V code was swiped from the Linux community and infringed. Five counts alone dealt with a permanent injunction to hold SCO executives responsible for "unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo."

The Tuesday ruling prevents Red Hat from pursuing its injunction against SCO. The jury trial regarding the SCO/IBM lawsuit over whether IBM leaked copyrighted code into Linux isn't expected to go to trial until 2005.

The judge left open a small window for Red Hat and SCO: According to court documents, "parties shall each submit a letter every 90 days as to the status of the Utah litigation; if the Utah litigation is not proceeding in an orderly and efficient fashion the court may reconsider the stay."

The ruling is a setback for Red Hat, and the Linux community in general, who have been trying to stop what they say is a SCO-led Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) campaign concerning the Linux kernel source code. SCO has been unrelenting in its case, with CEO and president Darl McBride saying after the Red Hat suit was filed, "Linux developers are either unwilling or unable to screen the code in the Linux kernel to remove infringing code before customers buy and use it."

However, the Unix company has different issues to face overseas. On March 1, Germany-based Univention GmbH won a victory for the Linux community when officials announced that SCO's German office would settle an out-of-court a case similar to Red Hat's. Because of the settlement, SCO is no longer able to say (in Germany) that Linux operating systems contain illegitimately acquired intellectual property of SCO Unix. It is also barred from claiming that Linux end users can be held liable, that Linux is not authorized derivative of Unix, and that buyers of the Linux operating system have to fear prosecution, if it is not provably true.

A spokesperson for Red Hat was not immediately available for comment.