The SCO Group revealed this week that a Utah District Court judge ruled in favor of IBM in SCO's trade-secret-violation lawsuit against the computing giant. Earlier this year, SCO sued IBM for $1 billion, alleging that the Linux OS that IBM now supports contains software code stolen from UNIX, the rights to which SCO largely owns. SCO also revoked IBM's UNIX license. However, late last week, the court handed IBM a stunning legal victory that resulted in an interesting reversal of fortunes. SCO had been pressuring the courts to force IBM to reveal its Linux and UNIX source code so that SCO could prove that IBM was using stolen code. But the judge ruled that SCO would have to first present its UNIX source code and identify which software code had been stolen for Linux.
"IBM has said all along that SCO has failed to show evidence to back its claims," an IBM spokesperson said. "We are very pleased that the court has indicated it will compel SCO to finally back up its claims instead of relying on marketplace FUD \[fear, uncertainty, and doubt\]." SCO's claims, although serious, have always seemed a bit spurious. The company has never publicly provided any meaningful proof that its claims about Linux are true, and as IBM complained in court, SCO attempted to shift the burden of proof to the accused.
Now SCO has just 30 days to give IBM the information and source code that proves its allegations. Specifically, SCO must give IBM "all source code and other material in Linux ... to which \[SCO\] has rights, and the nature of plaintiff's rights." SCO must also provide a detailed description of how IBM allegedly infringed on SCO's rights and whether SCO previously distributed the source code in question. If SCO had previously distributed that code, IBM argues, SCO has agreed to the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL) through which Linux distributions are licensed and can't sue IBM for doing the same. The judge will revisit the case on January 23, 2004, to ensure that SCO has followed through on its obligations. On that date, SCO can also request additional materials from IBM, including the source code to AIX, IBM's UNIX version.
But don't worry about SCO; the company has another legal bomb to drop on IBM. SCO said this week that it will add a copyright-infringement lawsuit to the earlier charges. "\[SCO\] decided to notify the court they will be adding \[copyright infringement\] as part of the claims," an SCO spokesperson said yesterday. "There will be a new filing on that coming out in the near future." SCO says it would have filed copyright-infringement claims in its original lawsuit against IBM but was thwarted when Novell claimed it still owned the UNIX copyright. However, legal documents unearthed in June proved that SCO owns the UNIX copyright, the company says.