August 13, 2007
Judge Rules Novell Owns Unix Copyrigts, not SCO
The bombshell news over the weekend is the Friday ruling that SCO does not own the copyrights in Unix property they bought from Novell. Novell, in fact, retains copyright due to the dual reading of sections 1.1(a) and sections 1.1(b) of the original Asset Purchase Agreement (APA) executed between the two companies on September 19, 1995. Section 1.1(a) delineated what assets were part of the agreement while 1.1(b) did the same for excluded assets. One of those excluded assets is copyright.
Judge Dale A. Kimball of the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah wrote a 102 page opinion that analyzed the agreement and the various subsequent amendments and concluded that SCO misread the agreement as to exactly what it owned. One thread that runs through the opinion is that Novell clearly knew what it was keeping and what it was selling. SCO, on the other hand, seemed to be justifying its belief of copyright ownership through sloppy or selective interpretation. SCO's lawyers urged the court to accept a very broad reading of the agreement and in the alternative different readings of the APA that were not necessarily consistent.
SCO's approach to this case is similar to its case against IBM for copying UNIX code into its Linux product. SCO would make claims, change them, and refuse to offer detail or evidence for those claims. At one point, SCO insisted that it was IBM's duty to sift through its own code and prove SCO's case against the company. Friday's ruling knocks out the basis of SCO's suit against IBM and others. It also questions of the value of licenses SCO issued to Microsoft and Sun Microsystems over their use of Unix code in their products.
Microsoft most likely viewed SCO as a proxy in the war against Linux. The twin suits against Novell and IBM may have slowed down adoption of Linux by some corporations, but the end of doubt is near. Microsoft will now have to rely on its own patent litigation threats instead of a company that stamps its feet a lot but can't deliver the goods. SCO says it will appeal. If its actions at the appellate level are similar to the way it conducted its trial, Judge Kimball's ruling will likely be upheld.
The place to get information on this suit, its history and its impact is groklaw. There is plenty of news coverage on the significance of this latest ruling, but the best is going to be at groklaw. The excellent site is run by Pamela Jones, and she links to all of the documents publicly available in the case along with detailed insightful analysis and community comment. A copy of this latest ruling is available there. The only thing left is to settle the last details of the litigation and for someone to buy this pathetic company and put it out of its misery. Only lawyers (and their investment bankers) would cry if that happened.
August 13, 2007 | Permalink
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