Last week, the district court in SCO, Inc. v. Novell (D. Utah), the current act in the long-running drama of the SCO litigations aimed at the Linux operating system, refused to grant SCO’s motion to set aside the jury verdict rendered last March. The jury concluded that Novell owned the copyrights in the UNIX code that SCO claims is infringed by the Linux operating system.  Once again, open source advocates were  celebrating, and with good reason. The ownership of the UNIX code goes to the heart of all of the claims that SCO has raised in the other litigations, and if thet verdict stands, those litigations are effectively over. Although SCO’s long-standing fee agreement with its attorneys apparently includes another trip to the U.S. Court of Appeals, it will be up to the Bankruptcy Trustee and the Bankruptcy Court in Delaware to decide whether that trip is actually made. We will learn their decision in due time.
Meanwhile, there are many answers to the question of what can be learned from the SCO litigations, but one of them has nothing to do with the future of open source software, or the potential futility of high-stakes, bet-the-company litigation tactics. For attorneys who are engaged in the daily exercise of drafting and negotiating complex technology licensing deals, one lesson is this: When there is a communications or knowledge gap between the lawyers that give final shape to a business deal  and the executives that will live with the deal over time, the result may be a fundamental and detrimental misunderstanding of just what the deal accomplished.