Now that Novell has scored a major win for Linux in its legal battle with The SCO Group, it has no interest in becoming like the company it's just defeated and won't mount any copyright-infringement claims over Unix, a spokesman said Tuesday.
"We're not interested in suing people over Unix," Novell spokesman Bruce Lowry said. "We're not even in the Unix business anymore."
On Friday, a judge upheld Novell's claims to Unix copyrights that SCO said it owned. Those copyrights were the basis for SCO's highly controversial and ongoing Linux patent-infringement suit against IBM.
Lowry said the ruling means "the cloud has lifted over Linux." Users and distributors of the open source OS finally can breathe a sigh of relief that they are not in violation of Unix copyrights.
"We don't believe there is Unix in Linux," Lowry said. "We've been fighting that all along. It wouldn't be consistent for Novell to say, 'Oh gosh, now that this has been confirmed, we're going to suddenly take a different position' and sue companies for copyright infringement."
The Friday ruling doesn't mean the company's legal entanglement with SCO is over. There are still several claims before the court that will go to trial next month, and one of them involves payments SCO received from Microsoft and Sun for Unix licenses. If the judge rules that those companies paid SCO for Unix copyrights owned by Novell, SCO will have to pay Novell whatever it earned from those licenses, Lowry said.
There is nothing holding Novell back from suing existing Unix vendors. Even Novell's Linux-Windows interoperability deal with Microsoft does not preclude the two companies from suing each other. Lowry declined to speculate on the outcome of the outstanding claims of the case.
One thing seems fairly certain: Friday's ruling sinks SCO's case against IBM once and for all, a point Linux proponents were still celebrating Tuesday. SCO can't appeal the ruling until the trial is over, and the company has not decided if it would do so. In a statement on its Web site, SCO said it is exploring how it will proceed once the legal process of the case is concluded.
Lowry declined to speculate on how the ruling will affect that case and others SCO is still embroiled in with IBM, AutoZone, and Red Hat. Both the AutoZone and Red Hat cases had been put on hold until the IBM case was resolved. Attorneys in the SCO-IBM case have until Aug. 31 to present what claims are still pending now that the Unix copyright claim in the Novell-SCO suit has been resolved. Another case, which SCO brought against DaimlerChrysler AG for Unix copyright infringement, was dismissed in 2004.
"It's over," Pamela Jones, founder and editor of Groklaw, said of SCO's battle against Linux. "SCO couldn't find any infringement even when it had access to the entire copyrighted code base. No one else will find anything either." Groklaw is a Web site that follows open source software legal issues.
Linux proponents are turning their attention to Microsoft as the next front line in the battle to protect Linux, she said.