Novell Beats SCO in Unix Jury Trial

Jury finds that Novell still holds the key Unix copyrights, putting the brakes on SCO's legal challenge, but it still might not be the end for SCO.

After nearly seven long years of legal maneuvering and multiple court decisions, a key decision has been made in the case of SCO versus Novell on the issue of which company owns the Unix System V copyrights and patents.

The jury decision from the District Court of Utah ruled in favor of Novell, which could serve to end SCO's legal actions against Novell, IBM and the broader Linux community.

"Novell is very pleased with the jury’s decision confirming Novell’s ownership of the Unix copyrights, which SCO had asserted to own in its attack on Linux," Novell spokesman Ian Bruce said in a blog post. "Novell remains committed to promoting Linux, including by defending Linux on the intellectual property front. This decision is good news for Novell, for Linux, and for the open source community."

SCO began its claim against Novell in May 2003, arguing that when Novell sold Unix System V to SCO in 1995 that the transaction also involved giving it the copyrights and patents -- but Novell disagreed. Favorably resolving the issue of who owns the Unix copyrights and patent was critical for SCO, as the company had earlier sought to extract money from IBM for allegedly infringing on the Unix System V patents through its use of Linux, in a case that began in March 2003.

While Novell is pleased with today's decision, it doesn't necessarily mean the end of SCO or its case against Novell.

"There is always the possibility of appeal," Bruce told InternetNews.com

SCO did not respond to InternetNews.com's request for comment by press time.

This isn't the first time that Novell has won a court decision against SCO in the case, either. In August 2007, U.S. District Court Judge Dale Kimball ruled in Utah that Novell is the owner of the Unix and UnixWare copyrights.

That ruling led to SCO entering into bankruptcy protection in September 2007 and being delisted from the NASDAQ stock exchange. However, on appeal, the case was sent to a jury to decide who, precisely, owned the Unix rights -- a jury decision that reached its conclusion today.

Novell also partially won a July 2008 ruling from Kimball, who awarded $2.55 million to Novell. That decision had been related to Unix royalties that SCO obtained from other vendors, including Sun and Microsoft.

Despite those court victories, SCO remains an operating company and has not backed down. Earlier this month, SCO announced that it had raised $2 million in new financing.

"This financing is intended to allow for the preservation of the value of the Company's business while enabling the Company to proceed with asset sales, continue supporting SCO's loyal UNIX customer base and to pursue litigation against, among others, IBM and Novell," SCO said in a statement at the time.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.




Tags: Linux, lawsuits, Unix, Novell, SCO


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