SAN JOSE, Calif. A jury in a Salt Lake City Federal court ruled Tuesday (March 30) that Novell, not the SCO Group, owns the copyrights to the Unix operating system. The decision at least temporarily protects a wide range of Linux users whom SCO claimed owned it royalties.
The legal trail in the case extends back to early 2003 when SCO sued IBM for allegedly sharing SCO's copyrighted Unix code with the Linux community. SCO sought damages from IBM and hundreds of companies using kits servers.
SCO also sought damages of as much as $32 for every embedded system using Linux. The moves sent chills through the open-source development community including companies such as Wind River that postponed plans for embedded Linux at that time due to the legal risks. Intel, MontaVista and Red Hat later joined the fight against SCO.
The Tuesday ruling essentially said Novell did not transfer copyright on Unix code to SCO as part of a 1995 agreement under dispute, according to Michael Jacobs, attorney with Morrison & Foerster representing Novell.
"There is more yet to come in the litigation but for the moment Novell has secured legal protection it was asserting it could confer on Linux--that SCO could not get license fees from Linux users by claiming that [SCO's] Unix [code] is in Linux," said Jacobs.
Several motions are still before the judge in the Utah case, including one to transfer the Unix copyrights from Novell to SCO. It was not immediately clear if SCO will appeal the decision.
"We are disappointed with the jury verdict today, but there remain important issues for the judge to decide--issues not tried to the jury," said Stuart Singer, attorney for Boies Schiller representing SCO. "Those issues will be briefed within next three weeks," he said in an email exchange.
Linux has backing from at least two broad industry associations that have attracted a who's who list of members. They include the Linux Foundation with board members including representatives of AMD, Fujitsu, Hitachi, IBM, Intel, and NetApp.
The CE Linux Forum is focused on consumer devices. It includes members such as ARM, HP, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba.
The Linux Foundation estimates companies ship as much as $50 billion a year in systems using Linux.