Microsoft Covers Back With SCO Unix License

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2003-05-26 Print this article Print

The crusade by the SCO Group to protect its Unix intellectual property took an unexpected turn last week.

The crusade by the SCO Group to protect its Unix intellectual property took an unexpected turn last week when Microsoft Corp. said it was licensing the Unix source code and patent from the company.

"SCO approached us a couple of months ago, and they had a valid IP claim, and, as we do quite regularly, we agreed to a broad IP license with SCO and as such have stepped out of the fray," said Alex Mercer, a Microsoft spokeswoman, in Redmond, Wash.

In the last month, SCO, of Lindon, Utah, has made a number of moves, charging that IBM, Linux and many of SCOs own customers are violating SCOs Unix IP.

Mercer said it was not Microsofts intent to exploit the IP license as a way to fund SCOs campaign against IBM and Linux—which SCO is suing for $1 billion—and against Linux. "There is absolutely no correlation between the IBM suit and our IP license with SCO," she said.

Furthermore, Microsofts agreement is not an admission that the company and its Services for Unix product violated SCOs IP but rather is a pre-emptive move to avoid possible complications, said Mercer. Details about the financial value and conditions of the Microsoft-SCO deal are confidential, and Mercer declined to say whether Microsoft is contemplating other deals with SCO.

As for SCO, its legal moves are not sitting well with some customers. "More and more, it looks like SCO is just scratching the sides of the well as they plummet to their death," said one SCO user, who requested anonymity.

A Unix/Linux programmer in Boston also questioned whether Microsoft really needed another Unix license given that it held one of the original ATT Unix licenses, the same one Sun Microsystems Inc. has. Microsofts Mercer declined to comment.

But Chris Sontag, senior vice president and general manager for SCOs intellectual-property division, said the licensing deal ensured Microsofts intellectual-property compliance across all Microsoft solutions and will better enable Microsoft to ensure compatibility with Unix and Unix services. "There are many companies in the IT industry who acknowledge and respect the intellectual property of software," said Sontag. "Microsoft is showing the importance of maintaining compatibility with Unix and Microsofts software solutions."

The Open Source Initiative last week hit back, updating its attack against SCO. OSI, a nonprofit educational association with offices in Palo Alto, Calif., is one of the principal advocacy groups for the open-source community. In a position paper, OSI argues that an SCO victory could do serious damage to the open-source community. "SCOs implication of wider claims could turn Linux into an intellectual-property minefield, with potential users and allies perpetually wary of being mugged by previously unasserted IP claims," it said.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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