Novell, SCO exchange shots without naming names

Novell and SCO traded barbs over open source software and intellectual property rights last week, but were careful not to name each other in their respective statements.

While SCO's CEO told IT executives in France to be wary of open source technology, Novell issued a statement assuring its customers that the open source products it sells are safe from litigation.

Speaking to industry executives in Paris, SCO CEO Darl McBride characterized the open source movement as a dangerous threat to companies that make software, or any digitized product. He said SCO's market share has suffered greatly because of the open source Linux operating system, which SCO says contains stolen code from its Unix software.

This is the basis of the company's lawsuit with IBM; SCO says IBM used protected SCO Unix code and put it into Linux. SCO has also since sued Novell on similar charges.

McBride - possibly the second-most vilified software CEO next to Bill Gates - then went on to hint that open source could also eventually put software developers out of work.

Meanwhile, Novell sent e-mail to its customer base to assure anyone looking into the company's open source offerings that the products are safe from legal attack. Novell says it will use its arsenal of U.S. software patents, amassed over its 25 years in the business, to defend any suits other companies may bring against its open source products. (Novell currently sells the SuSE Linux distribution and Ximian Linux desktop environment).

"If somebody comes after an open source technology that we ship with a patent claim, then we're going to go after that company," Novell said in a statement. Novell also said it would not use its patents to go after other open source vendors. These not-too-thinly-veiled messages to SCO follow similar announcements by IBM and Red Hat, both of which said they would not use patents to attack other vendors selling open source software.

So it's come to this: two neighboring companies - SCO in Lindon, Utah, Novell in Provo - taking shots at each other on two continents, with neither side mentioning the other by name.

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