The legal battle by Novell and The SCO Group over Unix may have reached its conclusion. On Tuesday, a federal jury said the rights to the widely used open-source operating system do not belong to SCO.
Novell President and CEO Ron Hovsepian said the decision by the District Court of Utah "is good news for Novell" and for the open-source community. He added that he is "proud of Novell's role in protecting the best interests" of the open-source movement.
'An Attack on Linux'
In 1995, Novell sold its Unix technology to the Santa Cruz Operation, but has maintained that it retained ownership of the Unix intellectual property. Six years later, the technology was sold by Santa Cruz to a company that later became The SCO Group. In 2003, SCO announced lawsuits against Novell, IBM and others.
Ian Bruce, chief marketing officer at Novell, wrote on the company blog Tuesday that the lawsuit about Unix copyrights included an "attack on Linux" by SCO. He said Novell "remains committed to promoting Linux, including by defending Linux on the intellectual-property front."
SCO's case was built around a contested section of the contract that could be read as keeping Unix copyrights for Novell. SCO's witnesses included former Novell CEO and Chairman Robert Frankenberg, who testified that the intent of the contract had been to sell all rights to Unix.
In 2008, The SCO Group lost a decision in a U.S. District Court, which awarded $3.5 million to Novell. That decision was upheld by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, but part of the case -- the part that has just been decided -- was sent back for a jury trial.
Impact on the Companies
The verdict could have an impact on the two companies. Novell recently turned down a unsolicited takeover offer from a hedge fund on the grounds that the price was too low. Since SCO claimed that Novell's insistence on ownership rights had cost SCO as much as $215 million, this decision resolves one of Novell's outstanding legal liabilities.
SCO has been in bankruptcy proceedings since 2008, and the decision clearly doesn't help its prospects. The decision could also have an impact on SCO's ongoing suit against IBM, first filed in 2003. It concerns the computer giant's use of Unix code in modifying Linux.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with Information Technology Intelligence Corp., said most IT people had considered the "issued settled for quite a while," because of the previous victories by Novell and because SCO was in bankruptcy and not visibly active.
To date, she said, the legal battles "have not materially impacted any corporation's decision to use" Unix or Linux, and she doesn't expect any changes as a result of the decision.