Microsoft Corp., which on Monday announced it was licensing the Unix source code and patent from the SCO Group, is remaining tight-lipped about its reasons for the move.
A company spokesman told eWEEK that there was no one available to discuss the matter further at this time, and referred eWEEK to a statement from Brad Smith, the general counsel for Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash. In that statement Smith said, “The announcement of this license is representative of Microsofts ongoing commitment to respecting intellectual property (IP) and the IT communitys healthy exchange of IP through licensing.
“This helps to ensure IP compliance across Microsoft solutions and supports our efforts around existing products like Services for UNIX that further UNIX interoperability,” he said.
A Microsoft spokesman also told eWEEK last week that while Microsoft had once held a stake in SCO, that was sold several years ago.
The licensing deal with Microsoft should come as no surprise as SCO, which is currently suing IBM for $1 billion, is also aggressively moving to drive revenue from new licensing programs and products for its intellectual property. To that end it created the SCOsource division earlier this year.
SCO CEO Darl McBride told eWEEK in February that the first deliverable from SCOsource was the licensing of its Unix shared libraries under a new product license called SCO System V for Linux. That product lets Linux customers run Unix applications, originally written for SCO OpenServer and SCO UnixWare, under Linux in an Intel environment.
Chris Sontag, the senior vice president and general manager for SCOs intellectual property division, said on Monday that the licensing deal ensured Microsofts intellectual property compliance across all Microsoft solutions and would 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. With this announcement, Microsoft is clearly showing the importance of maintaining compatibility with Unix and Microsofts software solutions through their software licensing. This important step will better help their customers implement Unix and Windows solutions,” he said.
The deal also follows SCOs warning last week that the open-source Linux operating system was an unauthorized derivative of Unix and that legal liability for the use of Linux could extend to commercial 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.
SCOs Sontag told eWEEK last week that the company had 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.
But 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 non-issue 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 last week.
Microsoft joins thousands of IT companies, educational institutions and customers that have licensed the UNIX source code for the benefit of their organizations. UNIX is one of the most widely used operating systems in the industry for implementing highly scalable computing solutions for high-end computing.
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