IBM files counter lawsuit against SCO

Claims SCO infringed on patents, violated GPL

IBM Corp. has fired back at The SCO Group Inc. with a lawsuit filed late Wednesday asserting that SCO is in violation of the license that governs contributions to the Linux operating system, and that SCO has infringed upon IBM patents, an IBM spokesman said Thursday.

In the lawsuit, filed in Utah, IBM claims that SCO has violated the GPL (general public license) that regulates how the Linux operating system can be used. IBM, based in Armonk, New York, also alleges that SCO is violating four IBM patents with some of its products, the spokesman said.

"These counterclaims arise from SCO's efforts to wrongly assert proprietary rights over important, widely used technology and to impede the use of that technology by the open-source community. SCO has misused, and is misusing, its purported rights to the Unix operating system developed initially by Bell Laboratories, then a research and development arm of AT&T Corp., to threaten destruction of the competing operating systems known as AIX and Linux, and to extract windfall profits for its unjust enrichment," IBM said in the complaint.

SCO plans to release a statement later on Thursday, and had expected IBM to file its counter suit, a SCO spokesman said.

SCO, based in Lindon, Utah, initially filed a suit against IBM in March claiming that IBM has tried to undermine the Unix operating system, the rights to which are owned by SCO, with its Linux development efforts.

SCO has falsely asserted that it has the right to revoke IBM's Unix license, the complaint said. SCO announced in June that it was terminating IBM's AIX license and would seek compensation from IBM's AIX business. AIX is a version of Unix developed by IBM.

Novell Inc. sold certain Unix System V rights that it had acquired from AT&T to The Santa Cruz Operation Inc. in 1995, but it did not grant that company the right to revoke Unix licenses, IBM said in the complaint. SCO, formerly known as Caldera Inc., bought the Unix rights in question in 2001 when it acquired some assets of The Santa Cruz Operation.

Those Unix rights did not include the right to revoke IBM's license, which is described as "perpetual and irrevocable" in the complaint, according to Novell and IBM. IBM attached letters from Novell to SCO from June of this year to support its claims in the complaint.

SCO announced this week that it will attempt to collect licensing fees from Linux users.

By attempting to claim licensing fees on Linux, SCO is in violation of the GPL, IBM said. It also said that SCO agreed not to seek such fees on any software distributed under the GPL when it distributed its own Linux products under that license using source code developed by IBM.

The patent-infringement charges center around four SCO products, UnixWare, Open Server, SCO Manager, and Reliant HA, IBM said. SCO infringed four separate IBM patents with those products, and should be enjoined from developing or selling those products, IBM claims.

The patents that are being infringed, according to IBM include: a patent called "Data Compression Method;" one called "Method of Navigating among Program Menus Using a Graphical Menu Tree;" one called "Self-Verifying Receipt and Acceptance System for Electronically Delivered Data Objects;" and "Method for Monitoring and Recovery of Subsystems in a Distributed/Clustered System."

Additional reporting by Robert McMillan, of the IDG News Service.

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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