SCO gets KO'd

Didja see what happened this month in that Michigan courtroom? Sure, Judge Rae Lee Chabot threw out virtually all The SCO Group's lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler. But that's not the really interesting part. What's really interesting is that, for the first time, a corporate Linux user stood up to SCO -- and won.

And DaimlerChrysler's lawyers didn't just beat SCO. They kicked SCO up one side of the courtroom and down the other. They stomped all over SCO's famous law firm. They demolished SCO's overblown claims and threats.

And they didn't depend on IBM or Novell or Red Hat to do their legal brawling for them. They did it for themselves.

That wasn't in the script. It certainly wasn't what SCO expected when it sued DaimlerChrysler and AutoZone in March. These weren't big vendors with Linux businesses to lose. They were user companies. They were supposed to be lawsuit-shy and risk-averse. They were supposed to be on the defensive.

And defensive is pretty much how AutoZone has played it. A week before the DaimlerChrysler decision, AutoZone's lawyers convinced a judge in Nevada to put the lawsuit against it on hold until after certain key issues are settled in SCO's suit against IBM.

No shame in that -- it was good lawyering. SCO had accused AutoZone of breaking copyright law by using Linux. IBM has spent the past year proving that Linux doesn't violate any SCO copyrights. Letting IBM do the heavy lifting just made sense. But that delay leaves AutoZone open to the possibility that SCO will get an injunction to stop it from using Linux while the case is on hold. It's a long shot for SCO -- but it's still a risk for AutoZone.

DaimlerChrysler's legal team did some good lawyering, too. But they did it Detroit-style.

There was nothing defensive in the way they ripped apart SCO's arguments. There was no request for a stay or delay, no looking for help from any vendor, no angling for a split decision.

There was something joyous, something gleefully vicious, in the DaimlerChrysler legal filings. They didn't just ooze confidence -- they exploded with it.

The DaimlerChrysler lawyers went after everything. Every SCO claim. Every SCO representation. They even tried to get thoroughly routine depositions tossed out.

And when they walked into the courtroom that Wednesday morning, they were visibly more confident than SCO's lawyers, according to observers. They knew they had it nailed.

They were right.

Lately, things have been going even worse than usual for SCO. Last month, Novell got SCO's lawsuit against it dismissed, although SCO has since refiled. IBM is currently waiting for a judge's decision on a request to declare that Linux doesn't infringe on any SCO copyrights -- a move that holds no risk for IBM if it fails but will gut SCO's other lawsuits if it succeeds.

Even Red Hat, whose lawsuit against SCO in Delaware has been on hold, is now working hard to convince the judge that SCO's strategy is to damage Red Hat's Linux business by delaying resolution of the case.

And now, corporate users -- who were supposed to be easily intimidated, who were supposed to pay up instead of fighting when they got threatening letters from SCO -- are punching back. Hard. And they're winning. Big.

For SCO, that means trouble. For DaimlerChrysler and every other big corporate IT user, it means a lot more than that.

It just may mean the end of the software business as we know it. Because once corporate software customers figure out how much leverage they have when they flex their muscles, this industry will never be the same.

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