RealTime IT News

SCO Disputes Novell's Claims to Unix

SCO Group Friday lashed out against Novell's claims that it still owns the copyrights to Unix, while repeating that its current legal battle with IBM over Unix licenses is based solely on contractual matters, not copyrights.

Calling Novell's challenge -- which he noted was timed to coincide with and overshadow SCO's quarterly results announcement -- a "desperate measure to curry favor with the Linux community," SCO CEO Darl McBride said he is confident that SCO does in fact own the copyright per the transfer agreement between SCO and Novell , adding, "We will be settling those issues in court."

In an open letter sent to McBride Thursday, Jack L. Messman, chairman, president and CEO of Novell, said, "Importantly, and contrary to SCO's assertions, SCO is not the owner of the Unix copyrights. Not only would a quick check of U.S. Copyright Office records reveal this fact, but a review of the asset transfer agreement between Novell and SCO confirms it. To Novell's knowledge, the 1995 agreement governing SCO's purchase of Unix from Novell does not convey to SCO the associated copyrights. We believe it unlikely that SCO can demonstrate that it has any ownership interest whatsoever in those copyrights. Apparently, you 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. Finally, we find it telling that SCO failed to assert a claim for copyright or patent infringement against IBM."

McBride contends that the transfer agreement does in fact give the copyrights to SCO, adding that his requests to Novell were a matter of clarification. "We clearly have a dispute over that issue," he said. "Very clearly there is contract language here that says we have the copyright contracts here to go out and sell this business."

But he also said, "The copyrights are not important to our current enforcement actions."

SCO has sued IBM for misappropriation of trade secrets, claiming that IBM breached its licensing agreement with SCO by allowing portions of Unix code or derivative works of its license to filter into the Linux community. As a result of the alleged breach of contract, SCO's Chris Sontag, senior vice president of the company's SCOsource intellectual property licensing division, said SCO now has the right to revoke Big Blue's AIX license. Sontag said SCO sent a letter to IBM informing it of this on March 7, starting a 100-day clock which goes off on June 13.

"We fully expect to follow through with the demands of that letter," Sontag said.

McBride also announced that SCO will follow through with its promise to show evidence of Unix code in Linux and the Linux kernel beginning next week. The company will provide certain licensees, analysts and members of the press with the evidence, under non-disclosure agreements. However, McBride also said that the company will not show all of its evidence.

"As we go forward, the month of June is show-and-tell time," he said. "We're not going to show two lines of code, we're going to show hundreds of lines of code. But we're not going to show all of the code because of the legal issues we have going on."

Adding a degree of specificity which the company has not displayed until now, Sontag added, "We're especially concerned about version 2.4 and beyond of the Linux kernel." He noted that the company's analysis of Linux code has mostly focused on code released in the last few years.

But while SCO acknowledges that its suit against IBM is based solely on contractual matters, it is also using the case as a platform to try Linux in the court of public opinion. Two weeks ago it sent a letter to about 1,350 corporations which use Linux, warning them, "Linux is an unauthorized derivative of Unix and that legal liability for the use of Linux may extend to commercial users."