Despite the latest actions in the SCO Group intellectual property crusade against its Unix and Linux rivals, vendors and enterprise customers are not ready to panic.
SCO last week announced that Linux operating system distributions contain unauthorized use of Unix code that SCO claims is its intellectual property. The company also issued warnings of potential legal liability to Linux users.
The Lindon, Utah, company also suspended its participation in the UnitedLinux consortium and stopped distributing its Linux product. (SCO last year was a founding member of the four-company consortium, which shares a common Linux base.)
SCO also sent letters to CEOs at 1,500 Fortune 500 and Global 2000 companies, warning them of the Unix intellectual property issues and violations associated with Linux.
Chris Sontag, a senior vice president at SCO, said the company has identified “significant source code copying issues within Linux, some of which we believe comes from IBM but many others of which come from third parties. All of these are very troubling to us,” Sontag said.
SCO found specific Unix System 5 source code within the Linux kernel, as well as within other, peripheral areas of Linux distributions, Sontag said.
These latest allegations follow the $1 billion lawsuit SCO filed against IBM in March, alleging that IBM tried to “improperly destroy the economic value of Unix, particularly Unix on Intel [Corp.], to benefit IBMs new Linux services business.”
An IBM spokeswoman declined to comment on the latest SCO allegations, citing the pending litigation against the company.
Other leading Linux vendors contend that they have not violated any intellectual property laws. “We feel pretty comfortable with the [UnitedLinux] agreement we have with SCO,” said Joe Eckert, a spokesman for SuSE Linux AG, in New York. “We have yet to hear from SCO about exactly what these issues might be.”
Leigh Day, a spokeswoman for Linux distributor Red Hat Inc., in Raleigh, N.C., agreed. “We have not seen any specific code referenced that we are supposed to be in violation of. We are certain we are not in violation of any intellectual property, and so this is a nonissue until we can see some of that,” Day said.
SCOs Sontag said the company is considering ways to reveal the code issues it had identified. “We are sensitive of the fact we need to make some of this information available to make our case,” he said.
Linux vendors are seeing little customer withdrawal as a result of the SCO litigation and threats. Day said Red Hat has seen no enterprise customer push-back, “so I dont know if that is why SCO is now taking their threats directly to the largest Linux customers.”
SuSE also has not seen any fallout from its enterprise customers as a result of SCOs actions, Eckert said.
“SCOs moves wont affect our operating system decisions, but I think SCOs actions are an attempt to become relevant and profitable again through the court system,” said a Linux programmer in the IS department at a medical center in Ashland, Ky., which runs Linux-based servers.
Jason Perlow, a Linux consultant and president of Argonaut Systems Corp., in Tenafly, N.J., also is not worried. Even if SCOs moves resulted in the death of the UnitedLinux consortium, “the SuSE and Red Hat distributions are actually in very good shape. In the end, there will probably only be two true enterprise Linux distributions: SuSE and Red Hat,” Perlow said.
Sontag said SCO reserves the right to enforce its intellectual property rights where violations occur. “We have no specific remedy at this point,” he said. “We just want Linux users to be aware of the large intellectual property issues with Linux, and we are recommending that they seek the opinion of legal counsel.”
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