IBM Drops Patent Counterclaims in SCO Case

In a surprising turn of events, IBM has dropped its patent counterclaims in its ongoing litigation with SCO.

In a surprise move, IBM has dropped its patent counterclaims against SCO in a memorandum to the U.S. District Court in Utah filed on Thursday.

The Memorandum in Opposition to SCOs Motion for Leave to Take Additional Depositions, here in PDF form, had been filed by IBM to address The SCO Group Inc.s motion for 25 additional depositions concerning IBMs patent counterclaims.

IBM countersued SCO in August 2003. At the time, IBM claimed that SCO was violating the GPL; that SCO had improperly revoked IBMs AIX license, since it needed Novells permission to do so; and that SCO was infringing on IBM patents with four of its products.

Specifically, IBM claimed SCO has violated IBMs patents in its UnixWare and OpenServer Unix operating systems; SCO Manager (a remote systems-management solution for Linux and SCO Unix systems); and Reliant HA (high availability software).

Within these products, IBM claimed violations of its data compression, navigation of graphical menus, a "self-verifying receipt and acceptance system for electronically delivered data objects" and monitoring and recovery features in distributed/clustered systems.

Even after dropping the patent counterclaims, IBM still has eight counterclaims in the docket against SCO.

The countersuit was in response to SCOs suing IBM because the Lindon, Utah-based company claimed that IBM had violated its Project Monterey contract—a deal between SCO and IBM to develop an enterprise Unix that could run on systems based on Intels IA-32 and IA-64 architectures as well as IBMs Power4 processor—and that IBM moved SCOs Unix System V Release 4 IP (intellectual property) to Linux.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about IBMs countersuit.

The legal battle between the companies is now moving into its fourth year.

The resulting conflicts over Linux IP issues have at times overshadowed Linuxs technical and business successes.

In the memorandum, IBM states in a footnote that:

"While IBM continues to believe that SCO infringed IBMs valid patents, IBM agreed to withdraw its patent counterclaims to simplify and focus the issues in this case and to expedite their resolution. The little discovery that SCO has produced regarding IBMs patent claims makes clear that there is insufficient economic reason to pursue these claims.

"Since SCOs sales have been, and are, limited, a finding of infringement would yield only the most modest royalty or award of damages and would not justify the expense of continuing prosecution of these claims."

In other words, IBM believes that it is still in the right about the patents, but that it simply wouldnt win enough money to make it worthwhile to continue to pursue these claims.

In terms of practicality, had IBM continued to press these claims, the IBM/SCO case would take even longer to come to a decision.

Pamela Jones, editor of Groklaw and no friend of SCO, said, "SCO argued in particular that IBMs complex patent counterclaims made it essential that it have more depositions. I thought they kind of had a point."

Blake Stowell, SCOs communications manager said "SCO was never worried about the counterclaims to begin with," but agreed that by not having to deal with them, the case should end more quickly now.

"We can now focus our legal resources on our claims in the court," said Stowell.

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