SCO Sets its Sights on SGI in Linux Battle

By Matthew Hicks  |  Posted 2003-10-01 Print this article Print

Now it's Silicon Graphics's turn in the dock. SCO threatens to terminate SGI's Unix license over code use in Linux. Company denies claim.

Silicon Graphics Inc. is the latest vendor to become ensnarled in The SCO Groups battle over the use of Unix code in the Linux operating system. SCO, of Lindon, Utah, is threatening to terminate SGIs license of Unix System V as of Oct. 14, alleging that SGI has violated the license by contributing the source code into Linux. But SGI officials deny the allegations and say they will not stop using the licensed code since the license is fully paid and cannot be terminated.
The dispute is reminiscent of SCOs legal toggle with IBM that led to a $1 billion lawsuit filed in March against Big Blue over its use of Unix code and alleged contributions to Linux.
SGI, of Mountain View, Calif., disclosed the dispute in its annual report filed this week with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The licensed code is used as part of SGIs Unix offering, Irix. SCO had sent a letter to SGI on Aug. 13 in which it promised to terminate the license unless SGI fixed the alleged violations, and SGI officials say they responded to SCO late in August to deny the claims. In his letter, SCO President and CEO Darl McBride wrote that "SGI has subjected our source code to unrestricted disclosure, unauthorized transfer and disposition, and unauthorized use and copying." SCOs letter, however, provided no specifics on the allegations, such as naming specific products or specific portions of code being violated, "just general allegations," said Greg Estes, vice president of corporate marketing at SGI. "We are absolutely, positively going to continue to ship our Irix system," Estes said. "We think their allegations are completely without merit." Along with its Irix Unix, which runs the majority of its servers and workstations, SGI also has been active in Linux. The company ships the Altrix line of servers based on Linux and software called ProPack to help manage and scale Linux. SCO spokesman Blake Stowell declined to say whether SCO will take legal action if SGI doesnt end use of the license, but said the company will consider "enforcement options." SGI, in its SEC filing, appears prepared for a legal fight if necessary. The company warned that "there can be no guarantee that this dispute with SCO Group will not escalate into litigation, which could have a materially adverse effect upon SGI." SCOs Stowell said the companys target is not Linux in the dispute but in protecting its intellectual property. "We have no argument with contributions they may have made to Linux that may have been their own development work of open source but what we do have a problem with is when they take the Unix System V code licensed from us or derivative code and contribute that to Linux," he said. Discuss this in the eWEEK forum.
Matthew Hicks As an online reporter for, Matt Hicks covers the fast-changing developments in Internet technologies. His coverage includes the growing field of Web conferencing software and services. With eight years as a business and technology journalist, Matt has gained insight into the market strategies of IT vendors as well as the needs of enterprise IT managers. He joined Ziff Davis in 1999 as a staff writer for the former Strategies section of eWEEK, where he wrote in-depth features about corporate strategies for e-business and enterprise software. In 2002, he moved to the News department at the magazine as a senior writer specializing in coverage of database software and enterprise networking. Later that year Matt started a yearlong fellowship in Washington, DC, after being awarded an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship for Journalist. As a fellow, he spent nine months working on policy issues, including technology policy, in for a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He rejoined Ziff Davis in August 2003 as a reporter dedicated to online coverage for Along with Web conferencing, he follows search engines, Web browsers, speech technology and the Internet domain-naming system.

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