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Analysis: Novell Tries to Torpedo SCO Unix IP Claims

Now: Novell Upstages SCO Earnings Call

  • May 28, 2003
  • By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols

SCO may not be able to sue IBM for illegally placing UNIX code in Linux after all. For you see, according to Novell CEO Jack Messman, SCO doesn't own UNIX's patents or copyrights in the first place.

In the release Messman said, "SCO continues to say that it owns the UNIX System V patents, yet it must know that it does not. A simple review of U.S. Patent Office records reveals that Novell owns those patents." Further, "the 1995 agreement governing SCO's purchase of UNIX from Novell does not convey to SCO the associated copyrights. We believe it unlikely that SCO can demonstrate that it has any ownership interest whatsoever in those copyrights."

Also this morning, in SCO's 2nd quarter earning call, SCO CEO Darl McBride said that there's no mention of copyright and patents in the IBM lawsuit and that contract issues are really what the IBM lawsuit is about. At the same time, though, he admitted that SCO had been talking with Novell over UNIX IP issues and that SCO's 1995 purchase agreement of UNIX from Novell was 'confusing' on the issue of UNIX's patents and copyrights.

In SCO's press release addressing Novell's comments, SCO doesn't directly address the copyright issue and puts contract issues on center stage. Indeed, Bruce Perens, director of Software in the Public Interest, a non-profit, Open Source development organization, says, "SCO's brief reply to Novell implicitly acknowledges that SCO does not own the UNIX copyright."

That said, though, in the teleconference McBride said that SCO believes that the company does own the UNIX copyrights and that all four of the people who signed the contract-none of whom are still with Novell or SCO-thought at the time that the intent was to transfer copyright. So, "SCO has the absolute right to UNIX's copyright" and we're confident on how a judge will come down."

Gary Schuster, Novell's senior VP of communications responded to this claim by saying, "Maybe SCO will find out in court."

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