Justice is slow for SCO and IBM

A year ago, you couldn’t flip through a technology magazine without seeing some reference to the US$5 billion lawsuit the SCO Group Inc. slapped on IBM Corp. for Big Blue’s alleged mishandling of Unix code, but now it seems all’s quiet on SCO’s front. Where do things stand in this high-tech standoff? Despite the silence, moves are afoot.

To recap: SCO alleges that IBM illegally contributed Unix System V code to the Linux project. SCO now owns the rights to Unix and as a result, claims it owns the right to Linux. SCO is asking Linux users to pay a licensing fee.

Although the case was set to go to trial in November, recent rulings have postponed the trial’s start to an as-yet-unknown date. Back in October 2004, SCO had asked Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells to compel IBM to provide SCO with more “discovery” — documents and such that SCO could use to build a case. In January, Judge Wells granted SCO’s motion to provide discovery such as developer notes and AIX version specs, according to SCO.

Additionally, the judge told IBM to turn over the code for every version of Dynix. Judge Wells set March 18 as the deadline for IBM to turn over the discovery but IBM has since received an extension. The court hasn’t set a final date for the info exchange.

The companies planned to meet again in late March to propose a new deadline for IBM to turn over the discovery.

Meanwhile Judge Dale Kimball denied IBM’s motion for a partial summary judgment indicating IBM had not violated any of SCO’s copyrights by contributing code to Linux, SCO said. However, SCO is not just involved in a case against IBM. It also hit Novell Inc. with a lawsuit and is suing AutoZone Inc., an autoparts retailer and a Linux user, for infringing upon SCO’s intellectual property.

In the Novell case, the next hearing is on May 25, when the judge will consider Novell’s second request to have the case dismissed, SCO said. In the AutoZone case, SCO said it is still analyzing discovery. The firm expected to attend a hearing in late March or in April. However, the SCO lawsuits surrounding Linux haven’t had a huge impact on the industry thus far.

“Initially, there was a lot of buzz regarding SCO’s IP infringement claims against IBM and DaimlerChrysler, but over time it has been shown that their bark is far worse than their bite,” said Dave Senf, manager, Canadian software and global IT/business enablement solutions group at IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto.

Additionally, other industry analysts have received little prodding about the SCO case recently. “I do get asked for my opinion from time to time. Journalists, not subscribers, are asking the questions,” said Dan Kusnetzky, program vice-president, system software, enterprise computing group at research firm IDC.

Hewlett-Packard Canada Co. echoed Kusnetzky’s experience. “Today, the suit is not top-of-mind among the majority of our customers,” said Glenn Bontje, Business Development Manager, Linux and High Performance Computing (HPC), at HP Canada in Mississauga, Ont.

IBM declined to comment.

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