IBM on Friday responded to the $1 billion lawsuit filed against it by the SCO Group on Thursday, saying the suit is “full of bare allegations with no supporting facts.”
IBM corporate spokesman Bill Hughes told eWEEK on Friday that company officials received a copy of the complaint “this morning and have not had a sufficient opportunity to study it. However, based on a quick read, the complaint is full of bare allegations with no supporting facts.”
He also maintained that SCO never approached IBM to raise the complaint or to give advance notice of the lawsuit. “IBM has been openly supporting Linux and open standards for several years, and neither SCO nor any of its predecessors ever expressed these concerns to us,” Hughes said.
His comments fly in the face of those made by SCO CEO and president Darl McBride, who told eWEEK on Thursday that SCO had been talking to IBM in this regard since early December and had reached an impasse. As such, legal action was the only way forward, he said on Thursday. McBride then reiterated this in a Friday media conference.
Hughes comments are consistent with those of an IBM Linux spokeswoman, who told eWEEK last week that Big Blue had not been contacted by SCO with regard to any potential violations of its intellectual property or other rights.
Open-source community activists and consultants who talked to eWEEK on Friday were also angry about what they see as SCOs spurious and baseless legal action. SCOs $1 billion lawsuit alleges that IBM made “concentrated efforts to improperly destroy the economic value of Unix, particularly Unix on Intel, to benefit IBMs new Linux services business.”
Bruce Perens, an influential open-source consultant and activist who was also the former senior global strategist for Linux at Hewlett-Packard Corp., told eWEEK in an interview on Friday that SCO is playing both sides: pointing out that its action was not against Linux or the open-source community, yet at the same time suing one of the largest players in the Linux and open-source communities.
“The Linux and open-source community are not deceived by this. We are very angry and will now never recommend any products created by SCO or Caldera going forward. We may well also have our own infringement actions to bring against SCO,” he warned on Friday, but declined to be more specific.
: Open-Source Community Speaks Out on SCO Suit”>
Perens comments follow an SCO media conference on Friday where McBride stressed that the IBM case was not about the Linux community. “This is not about the open-source community or about UnitedLinux, of whom we are members and partners…This case is and is only about IBM and the contractual violations that we are alleging IBM has made and that we are going to enforce,” he said.
Richard Seibt, the CEO of German-based SuSE Linux, told eWEEK on Friday that SuSE was greatly disappointed to learn of the SCO Groups recent actions. “While we agree that SCO has every right to enforce their intellectual property rights, and while we strongly believe that this does not impact Linux (as even SCO has made clear), we are concerned that these actions are not in the best interest of customers, partners and the Linux community,” he said.
“Accordingly, we are currently reevaluating our relationship with the SCO Group. That said, we want to very clearly and unequivocally voice our support of the ideals and goals of UnitedLinux and the Linux community,” he said.
This is not the first time the open-source and Linux communities have been critical of SCOs legal intentions. Michael Tiemann, the CTO of Raleigh, N.C.-based Red Hat Inc., told eWEEK at LinuxWorld in January that “every time people get engaged in unproductive arguments, it slows things down. What the IT industry needs today is a direction forward, and as long as were fighting these border skirmishes about this library and that thing there, is it Lindows, is it Windows, thats a distraction,” he said.
Perens said on Friday that the case against IBM also seems to relate to trade secrets and contract law rather than copyright or patent. “There are a lot of specious issues in the complaint. As Unix has been sold several times and the patents havent always followed, SCO cannot bring a patent case. They can bring a copyright case if they can show that lines of Unix code actually appear in Linux. They have not as yet demonstrated this,” he said.
Perens said that years ago he developed the Open Source Definition, a guideline for what intellectual property would be included in Linux, with the specific purpose of keeping the type of intellectual property that SCO is complaining about from finding its way into our system, he said.
Perens also gave a detailed background on the history of Unix and its ownership. Perens said Unix was first developed in about 1970 in Bell Labs, then commercialized in the 1980s and sold to Novell for about $750 million. Novell, who wanted to battle Microsoft on the operating system front, developed a product called Unixware, which it vowed to make the industry standard. That never happened and Novell eventually sold the Unix rights to SCO.
“Before the Unix acquisition from Novell, SCO was a business partner with Microsoft on Xenix, Microsofts version of Unix, which has been out of the market for a decade now. At that time Microsoft felt Unix was the future, but of course then abandoned that strategy for Windows. Caldera then held an IPO and bought SCO really for a song as SCO had already been devalued by the threats from Linux and the BSD Unix system,” he said.
Perens said SCOs current legal action seems designed to “deliberately confuse issues” by quoting IBM statements made to the press about releasing components of its AIX to the open-source community. “These are not releases of code. We all know that IBM will not release code that is not theirs as they have very comprehensive review policies around investigating other peoples IP and any such move has to be approved by a committee,” he said.
“It appears that SCO feels any code written to be part of the Unix kernel, even if written entirely by IBM, belongs to SCO. And people call the General Public License viral? SCOs viewpoint is silly and baseless to me,” he said.
Asked why he thought other big Unix players like HP and Sun had not also been sued by SCO, Perens said that was probably because they were not partners in the aborted Project Monterey, in which IBM, SCO and now-extinct Sequent had entered into an agreement to create a version of Unix for Intel Corp.s Itanium processors.
Under that agreement, SCO had shared its expertise with IBM about how best to run Unix on Intel processors, but IBM ultimately canceled the project. However, “in violation of its obligations to SCO, IBM chose to use and appropriate for its own business the proprietary information obtained from SCO,” SCO alleges in its suit.
Perens said that the question is whether SCO let IBM see more of its Unix trade secrets and IP under Project Monterey than it did other Unix vendors. “How significant that was and what IBM did with any such knowledge is unclear and will be crucial in any trial going forward,” he said.
SCO also claims in the suit that it is not possible for Linux to have “rapidly reached Unix performance standards for complete enterprise functionality without the misappropriation of Unix code, methods or concepts to achieve such performance, and coordination by a larger developer, such as IBM.”
Perens said he believed SCO brought this case as an overture to being bought by either IBM or Microsoft. “IBM has absolutely no incentive to settle. They can buy SCO for way less than it would cost to settle. SCOs market capitalization early Friday morning was just $22 million. This is lunch money for IBM and, if they bought the company, this would end any further potential claims related to SCOs intellectual property.
“Microsoft may try to buy SCO to use the assets to continue to create fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) around Linux. I really think this is an exit strategy by the main investors in SCO. I believe Microsoft or IBM will buy the company, and we may well see IBM counter-sue, which would then make such an acquisition unappealing to Microsoft,” Perens said.
IBMs Hughes, Microsoft spokesman Mark Martin, and SCO spokesman Blake Stowell all declined to comment Friday on these speculations.
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