SCO Group's last gasp?

Are the wheels falling off SCO's lawsuit? And will SCO be around for much longer?

At the beginning of the year I predicted that SCO Group would: 1) get its case against IBM thrown out by the judge; 2) fail to show any examples of protected code; and 3) declare (financial) bankruptcy, but not edge closer to a 2007 trial date.

With a few weeks left in the year, it looks like I got the predictions wrong, but maybe only by a few months.

Here is a quick history lesson for those who have been cave dwellers for the last few years (or who only deal with Windows computers). In March 2003, SCO filed suit against IBM claiming it had violated SCO copyrights by putting Unix code into Linux and asking for billions of dollars in damages. SCO then sued AutoZone, DaimlerChrysler, RedHat and Novell. SCO sent letters to many companies running Linux systems asking them to stop using Linux (asking them to stop using Linux asking them to stop using Linux. The AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler suits have been dismissed. In the years since filing the IBM suit, SCO has claimed that as many as a million lines of code were illegally put into Linux by IBM. But when push came to shove, SCO identified 326 lines of Linux code to the court (which SCO will not make public) as infringing its copyright. SCO also launched a full-force attack on the GNU General Public License (GPL), claiming that it was unconstitutional, among other things.

Some people might dismiss the SCO shenanigans as irrelevant to them and their companies and it might not be directly relevant to companies that do not run Linux or open source software (such as Apache Web server) that relies on some type of open source license. But even those folks should be concerned because if SCO succeeds in its attack on the GPL, we will all have fewer choices for software. Apple OSX, for example, has a lot of open source software in it.

But it looks like we do not have much to worry about because SCO may not be around much longer. The company did not have a good end to 2006 on either the legal or business fronts.

After SCO filed its final set of documents supporting its claims, IBM filed a series of motions -- with more than 590 exhibits -- to dismiss all of SCO's claims and to support the GPL. Novell filed a motion to compel SCO to pay back royalties. One of the judges in the case ruled that SCO cannot augment its claims against IBM because the deadline has passed and the SCO/Novell suit should get tried first -- this suit could wind up with SCO not owning the rights that it has been asserting against IBM. And Novell has asked the court to let it order SCO to drop many of SCO's claims against IBM because Novell has a contract with SCO that lets it do just that sort of thing.

If SCO's money holds out, the Novell/SCO trial will start next September and the SCO/IBM trial in 2008 -- if it happens at all. It looks like my predictions just did not take into account the slowness of the U.S. legal system.

Disclaimer: I know of no Harvard opinion on this short -- relative to Harvard's history -- case, so the above opinion must be mine.

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