SCO Attacks IBM on Copyright Front

UPDATED: SCO on Thursday finally and officially made Unix code copyright violation part of its case against IBM. And on Friday, the court heard continuing arguments over discovery of evidence in the case.

You might suppose that after all the Sturm und Drang of SCO vs. IBM that The SCO Group Inc. had sued IBM on Linux copyright violations. Youd be wrong. It was only late on Thursday that SCO finally added copyright violation to its list of IBM wrongs in its hearing in the Utah federal court in Salt Lake City, according to the Lindon, Utah, company.

Specifically, SCO added Unix copyright violations in its Plaintiffs Motion for Leave to File Amended Pleadings. This move comes as no surprise to those following the case.

Meanwhile, on Friday, the court held another round in the case over discovery motions. According to a statement from SCO, the court heard motions to compel discovery from both SCO and IBM and a written ruling would be forthcoming in about a week. Both companies have escalated their calls for additional information in the past month.

Besides making copyright violations the center of its public fight on Linux and the GPL (General Public License), SCO announced in December that it was considering adding copyright violations to its IBM suit. And on Thursday, it made good on that threat.

Tom Carey, chairman of the business practice group of Boston area law firm Bromberg & Sunstein LLP, which specializes in intellectual property law and business litigation, is surprised that it took SCO so long. "Its at the heart of what SCO is claiming, so it was a little surprising that they didnt do this at first," Carey said. "Of course, SCO didnt have [Unix] copyright claims at first, but still you expected them to make such claims [against IBM] after getting the copyright."

Indeed, SCO didnt even register its Unix copyright until June 30, 2003, months after its initial lawsuit against IBM. That copyright was for Unix System V, Release 4.1ES.

Since then, Novell Inc. claimed in June that it, not SCO, had claims on SCOs Unix copyrights. SCO counterattacked, and that seemed to be the end of the matter. Since then, however, Novell has restated its claims to 11 different branches of the System V Unix family tree and SCO sued Novell in January over these claims.

SCOs claims that its copyrighted code has found its way into Linux have also met strong resistance from both open-source legal experts and Linus Torvalds, Linuxs founder.

Pamela Jones, editor of the popular SCO news site Groklaw, writes that this latest move tells her "they would like to delay," because "it is conceivable that they worried that their case might get thrown out today, or at least enough of it to look bad. This way they can say that their case is still alive, no matter what happens at the hearing."

Carey doubts SCO wants any more delay. While he finds the timing odd, he feels that the copyright is at the heart of SCOs case.

"The foundation of the suit is a contract dispute with IBM," countered Marc Modersitzki, SCO spokesman. "On Thursday, we ammended the case to include copyright violations."

Editors Note: This story was updated to include information and comments following the Friday court hearing.

David Morgenstern contributed to this story.