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From: "Inker, Evan"
Subject: [hangout] Novell calls on SCO to prove allegations about Linux
Date: Thu, 29 May 2003 01:10:16 +0100
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Novell calls on SCO to prove allegations about Linux
A letter from Novell CEO Jack Messman appeared on its Web site
By TODD R. WEISS
MAY 28, 2003
Novell Inc. today forcefully joined the tumult surrounding Unix and Linux by
challenging The SCO Group Inc. to essentially put up or shut up over its
allegations that some of SCO's Unix code has illegally made its way into
In a letter on its Web site from Novell CEO and President Jack Messman, the
Provo, Utah-based company lashed out by challenging SCO's assertion that it
owns the copyrights and patents to Unix System V. Novell, which had earlier
acquired the Unix systems business of AT&T Corp., broke up and sold its Unix
properties in 1994 and 1995. One of those deals was with the former Santa
Cruz Operation, which was bought by Caldera International Inc. and later
became The SCO Group.
In his letter, Messman said the purchase agreement entered into between
Novell and SCO in 1995 didn't transfer the System V rights to SCO.
"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."
Messman's letter also asks SCO to immediately prove its assertion that
certain Unix System V code has been copied into Linux.
"SCO claims it has specific evidence supporting its allegations against the
Linux community," Messman's letter said. "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."
In a reply to Messman's letter, SCO issued a statement today saying, "SCO
owns the contract rights to the Unix operating system. SCO has the
contractual right to prevent improper donations of Unix code, methods or
concepts into Linux by any Unix vendor.
"SCO's lawsuit against IBM does not involve patents or copyrights. SCO's
complaint specifically alleges breach of contract, and SCO intends to
protect and enforce all of the contracts that the company has with more than
6,000 licensees. We formed SCOsource in January 2003 to enforce our UNIX
rights and we intend to aggressively continue in this successful path of
The growing battle came to a head in March when SCO sued IBM for $1 billion,
alleging that the company misappropriated trade secrets related to SCO's
Unix products to benefit IBM's Linux strategy (see story). As for SCOsource,
it was created to enforce what SCO claims is its position as the majority
owner of Unix intellectual property (see story).
In another startling move, SCO sent out a letter two weeks ago to nearly
1,500 global companies that use Linux in their businesses, essentially
warning them that they should seek legal advice because their use of Linux
could leave them liable for damages over SCO's pending intellectual property
claims (see story).
Messman's letter today includes an open letter to SCO CEO and President Darl
McBride, outlining Novell's announcement last month that it is moving its
product line to Linux and pointing out Novell's commitment to Linux and the
open-source development community (see story).
Messman said Novell was one of the companies that received SCO's warning
letter, which "compels a response from Novell."
"In particular, the letter leaves certain critical questions unanswered,"
Messman wrote. "What specific code was copied from UNIX System V? Where can
we find this code in Linux? Who copied this code? Why does this alleged
copying infringe SCO's intellectual property? By failing to address these
important questions, SCO has failed to put us on meaningful notice of any
allegedly infringing Linux code, and thus has withheld from us the ability
-- and removed any corresponding obligation -- to address your allegation."
Messman wrote that "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."
Graham Bird, a spokesman for The Open Group, which has owned the trademark
for Unix on behalf of the Unix industry since it was transferred by Novell
in 1994, said SCO is wrong when it asserts that it owns Unix. "That's not
true," Bird said. "What they own is some source code and technology" for
UnixWare. "That's not the same thing as owning Unix.
"If you're an uneducated observer of this, it would be very easy to say that
SCO owns Unix, which is not the case," Bird said.
Bruce Perens, a Berkeley, Calif.-based leader in the free software and
open-source communities and a critic of SCO's recent actions, lauded
"Novell has answered the call of the open-source community," Perens said.
"We admire what they are doing. Based on recent announcements to support
Linux with NetWare services and now this revelation ... Novell has just won
the hearts and minds of developers and corporations alike."
Dan Kusnetzky, an analyst at market research firm IDC in Framingham, Mass.,
said the Novell letter now opens the battleground even wider.
"It's a food fight" among several parties, he said. "As an industry analyst,
I'm sitting back and watching. This is a set of intriguing developments that
stands to only help one company, and it's none of the companies that are
The beneficiary would likely be Microsoft Corp., because the legal squabbles
could hurt the Linux market and turn businesses against even thinking about
additional Unix deployments, Kusnetzky said. "Where would companies turn?"
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