SCO Can't Win for Losing: Jury Says Novell Owns Unix Copyrights

by Ostatic Staff - Mar. 30, 2010

It's almost hard to believe that it's been eight years in the making, but SCO has finally had its day at trial, and lost. The Salt Lake Tribune, and many others, are reporting that a federal jury decided today that Novell owns the Unix copyrights.

SCO started its attack on Linux in 2002 by suing IBM and attempting to force businesses using Linux to pay it royalties. In 2003, Novell stepped up and asserted its ownership of the Unix System V patents and copyrights:

"To Novell's knowledge, the 1995 agreement governing SCO's purchase of UNIX from Novell does not convey to SCO the associated copyrights," Messman said in the letter. "We believe it unlikely that SCO can demonstrate that it has any ownership interest whatsoever in those copyrights. Apparently you share this view, since over the last few months you have repeatedly asked Novell to transfer the copyrights to SCO, requests that Novell has rejected."

"SCO claims it has specific evidence supporting its allegations against the Linux community," Messman added. "It is time to substantiate that claim, or recant the sweeping and unsupported allegation made in your letter. Absent such action, it will be apparent to all that SCO's true intent is to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Linux in order to extort payments from Linux distributors and users."

It's taken seven years of legal wrangling, three weeks of trial, and not quite two days of deliberation by a jury to settle the matter: Novell still owns the Unix System V copyrights, and SCO doesn't have a leg to stand on. It isn't officially over until the doors to SCO's offices are closed and the company liquidated. Right now SCO is in chapter 11 bankruptcy and trying to sell off a Java-related patent for running multiple Java apps on a single Java virtual machine to pay off some of its debtors.

It's hard to imagine now, but SCO's anti-Linux crusade was taken all too seriously when it started. Though the company sought to undermine the adoption of Linux, or at least shake out some licensing fees, the suit had the opposite effect. The FLOSS community began to think more seriously about potential legal threats, and doing better documentation of the origin of code and copyright assignment. At the same time, Linux has been taken more seriously as a player in the commercial market after weathering the initial attacks.

For a full history of the case, see Groklaw's SCO Group v. Novell, Inc timeline, and report on today's verdict.