The back story to the dispute between The SCO Group and Novell, Inc., over the ownership of copyrights to UNIX source code is lengthy indeed. But we’ll spare you the details and just say that the ownership of the copyrights is a critical issue because it is that very source code that underlies SCO’s claims that the open source Linux Operating System infringes on its intellectual property rights, thereby obligating just about everybody who uses the Linux OS to pay royalties to SCO. So needless to say, the open source community is very interested in the outcome of the current trial in The SCO Group v. Novell, Inc., which commenced in U.S. District Court in Utah on Monday.
To briefly recap, the issue of code ownership is being resolved in a slander of title lawsuit brought by SCO against Novell, which formerly owned (and claims to still own) the copyrights in the disputed code. When SCO claimed ownership of the UNIX code in its lawsuit against IBM, Novell made public statements disputing SCO’s ownership, thus the claim by SCO that Novell slandered its title to the code. District Court Judge Dale Kimball ruled in favor of Novell on the ownership issue, granting summary judgment dismissing SCO’s claims. But last August, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that there were disputed issues of material fact that precluded the grant of summary judgment, and remanded back to the District Court. Judge Kimball recused himself and the trial is now being held before District Court Judge Ted Stewart.
Meanwhile, the main event, the SCO lawsuit against IBM, is being held in abeyance pending resolution of the code ownership issue. If SCO prevails against Novel on the issue of ownership of the code, then the litigation against IBM should be the next event. The allegations in that lawsuit are, in brief summary, that IBM misappropriated SCO’s UNIX code and contributed it to the Linux operating system.
We cannot do justice to all of the ins and outs of the SCO v. Novell litigation, nor to the several related lawsuits, in a short blog post. But we can point you to the mother of all Web sites on the subject, www.Groklaw.net, that has been following these litigations in the greatest of detail since at least 2003. Be forewarned that the operator of the site has strong opinions on the issues, but whether you agree with those opinions or not, the site is an invaluable source of relevant documents and up to date information on the conduct of the trial.
The trial is scheduled to take three weeks.