SCO moves to dismiss Red Hat lawsuit

In the latest round of its ongoing Linux legal fight, The SCO Group Inc. filed a motion late Monday asking a judge to dismiss a pending suit by Red Hat Inc.

In its motion filed in the U.S. District Court in Delaware, SCO contends that Red Hat’s grounds for its lawsuit are baseless, in part because Red Hat is seeking to defend its open-source Linux operating system against a nonexistent legal challenge from SCO.

“Red Hat’s legal action does nothing more than seek general guidance for the marketplace as to the legal rights SCO has with respect to Linux software,” the Lindon, Utah company said in its motion to the court. “This is an impermissible use of the Declaratory Judgment Act.”

Unix-developer SCO launched a legal battle in March when it hit IBM Corp. with a lawsuit seeking at least US$1 billion in damages, claiming that Big Blue had illegally used the Unix operating system, owned by SCO, to build its Linux software source code.

IBM strongly denied the charges in a countersuit, saying it had not misappropriated any trade secrets, engaged in unfair competition, interfered with SCO’s Unix contracts or breached any contractual obligations to SCO.

SCO aggressively followed up its lawsuit against IBM in May with an open letter, posted on its Web site and sent by mail to about 1,500 large companies, warning that any group persisting in the use of Linux could be subject to intellectual property suits. SCO also drew heavy criticism from the Linux community when it announced plans to charge licensing fees to those companies using Linux.

Part of the backlash against SCO came last August when Red Hat, of Raleigh, N.C., filed a formal complaint asserting that its technologies do not infringe on SCO’s intellectual property and accusing SCO of attempting to discredit Linux and harm those promoting the free open-source software.

Red Hat’s suit asked for a declaratory judgment from the district court that would rule SCO’s claims regarding copyright infringement as untrue, while also asking the court to hold SCO accountable for “unfair and deceptive actions.”

In Monday’s motion for dismissal, SCO said Red Hat was not defending itself against legal action – because SCO has not filed any lawsuit against Red Hat – but rather was trying to defend itself against SCO actions that are in themselves protected by law, including the First Amendment.

“Further, any governmental interest served under the Lanham Act is heavily outweighed by fundamental governmental interests in protecting copyright interests, ensuring full and free access to courts, providing litigation immunity, promoting judicial economy and fairness in litigation, and safeguarding freedom of speech and the press,” the motion said.

“Red Hat’s real motive for filing suit against SCO was to somehow vindicate the entire Linux industry,” SCO contends in the motion.

A spokesperson for SCO said its move was simply a logical response to an unwarranted lawsuit. “We’re just denying the things that Red Hat has claimed in its complaint,” said Blake Stowell, a SCO spokesperson on Monday. “We’ve never publicly stated that we planned to sue Red Hat or threatened to sue Red Hat…it’s never been our intention to sue Red Hat and we have no plans to do that.”

Representatives from Red Hat could not be immediately reached for comment.

– With files from Robert McMillan, IDG News Service