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Caldera Software Linux

SCO Might Sue Linus for Patent Infringement? 1154

An anonymous reader writes "[Darl McBride, SCO's chief executive stated] that unless more companies start licensing SCO's property, he may also sue Linus Torvalds, who is credited with inventing the Linux operating system, for patent infringement." It's right at the end of the story and it's quite a statement.
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SCO Might Sue Linus for Patent Infringement?

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  • too bad (Score:2, Informative)

    by McDrewbie ( 530348 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:08PM (#6062064)
    too bad SCO doesn't own the patents nor copyrights. on unix. Their deal with Novell never involved Novell giving up their copyrights on UNIX r03033.html
  • by Nom du Keyboard ( 633989 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:08PM (#6062071)
    McBride added that unless more companies start licensing SCO's property, he may also sue Linus Torvalds

    SCO really does seem to want to make an enemy out of absolutely everyone left on Earth.

    Excuse me, but didn't Linus actually write Linux from scratch to duplicate the functionality of the existing Unix systems -- or do I misremember those early days?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:15PM (#6062151)
    The Shakespeare character who said "first, kill all the lawyers" was a tyrant. He wasn't interested in killing the lawyers to stop stupid lawsuits, he wanted them out of the way so he could do whatever the heck he wanted.
  • Re:wow (Score:3, Informative)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:15PM (#6062154)
    and how in hell can SCO afford all this crap anyway?

    They can't. This is being handled on a contingency basis. If there are a lot of counter-suits SCO could be in big trouble.

  • This is by far the most irrational thing I've seen from SCO. Go to and search the patent collection online. Look for "Santa Cruz Operation", "SCO", and "Caldera" as patent owner. They were granted one patent last month, and not a significant one. There isn't much else there.

    A lot of patents owned by other people mention SCO as an example of a Unix system. That is by far the largest source of mentions of their company name in the patent database.

    So, where's the ammo in Darl's gun? No patents. No copyrights for the stuff he said he owned. No trade secrets, as far as I can tell.

    And then, to threaten Linus Torvalds as an individual sounds especially whiny. multi-Million-dollar corporation sues San Jose programmer who has made a life of giving his work away for free. SCO has descended to playground-bully level.

    Karsten Self revealed this interesting tidbit from SCO's 10K report: []

    The Company has an arrangement with Novell, Inc. ("Novell") in which it acts as an administrative agent in the collection of royalties for customers who deploy SVRx technology. Under the agency agreement, the Company collects all customer payments and remits 95 percent of the collected funds to Novell and retains 5 percent as an administrative fee. The Company records the 5 percent administrative fee as revenue in its consolidated statements of operations. The accompanying October 31, 2002 and 2001 consolidated balance sheets reflect the amounts collected related to this agency agreement but not yet remitted to Novell of $1,428,000 and $1,894,000, respectively, as restricted cash and royalty payable to Novell. The October 31, 2001 balances were reclassified from cash and equivalents and other royalties payable to conform to the current year presentation.
    This is SCO's admission that Novell owns Unix System V, all revisions - that's what they mean by "SVRx", and pays Novell 95% of the royalties. SCO gets to keep 5% as administrative agent.

    That proves the Novell allegation.

    SCO stock dropped from $9 to $6 today. I'm surprised it closed that high.


  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:18PM (#6062200) Homepage Journal
    SCO does not own 117 patents. Maybe they are mentioned in 117 patents, as an example of a Unix system. Mind your search parameters. They own only a handful of patents, and no significant ones.


  • by Kissing Crimson ( 197314 ) <jonesy&crimsonshade,com> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:18PM (#6062201) Homepage
    Since no one is out there auditing Linux code looking for stuff like this

    Actually, there's a team of people at IBM (and I'm sure a few other companies) doing exactly that.
  • by sumbry ( 644145 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:30PM (#6062325) Homepage
    1) SCO is suing IBM. IBM already invested billions of dollars in Linux and isn't about to let this one go.
    Right, but if it goes to court, it might be possible to issue a temporary injunction baring Linux distribution until the issue is settled. This is (sort of) what happened to BSD.
    2) Precisely because of the history of the BSD case. If there is offending code all we have to do is take it out. SCO can't ban Linux entirely, just Linux that contains copyrighted code, if that is the case.
    You're right, all BSD did was take out the offending code, but the suit caused distribution of BSD to be help up for a while. That hurt us- we're still paying for it to this day.
  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by AstroDrabb ( 534369 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:35PM (#6062371)
    IBM, Linux, or the rest have nothing to worry about since Novell announced that SCO has no patents on Unix and Novell still owns the IP. r03033.html
  • Re:Is this possible? (Score:4, Informative)

    by bofkentucky ( 555107 ) <> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:35PM (#6062372) Homepage Journal
    IANAL (/code needs a macro for this) but my understanding is that the 4.4BSD-lite release is completely clean and can not be sued as part of the UCalifornia Board of Regents vs. AT&T settlement. ATT got to keep all of the nifty 4BSD networking code (Bind, TCP/IP stack, real low level stuff all the way through telnet and gopher clients) without displaying the BSD advert clause in return. This split happened after the creation of Minix (and Linux), and should have absolutely no bearing on this case, with the obvious reality of modern *BSD's/OSX/Darwin (all derived from 4.4-lite) being completely free of fear of SCO on Unix IP infringement claims.
  • by Watts Martin ( 3616 ) <> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:42PM (#6062435) Homepage

    Caldera acquired DR-DOS from Novell, which Novell got from Digital Research. While I agree with your main point, it's important for old geeks like me to clarify this sort of thing. DR-DOS was the legitimate descendant of CP/M (it's actually the renamed CP/M-86). If you know your MS-DOS history, you'll know it came from QDOS, which was Seattle Computer's unauthorized 8080-to-8086 translation of CP/M. So in a real sense, MS-DOS is in fact a copy of DR-DOS, not the reverse.

    It's also worth giving credit where credit is due. Tetris aside, Caldera was really the first company that pushed concepts Linux users take for granted now like easy installs, file and network browsing, etc. They may have dropped the ball years ago, but they were the first "Linux-focused company" to put the ball into play. I don't consider the current SCO to have much to do with that Caldera, though.

  • by sumbry ( 644145 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @07:56PM (#6062582) Homepage

    Wrong. No matter how much you would love Linux to be screwed, only the person who messed up and maybe the organization he works for is. If there really is infringing code (which is doubtful) and if for some special reason the GPL doesn't apply to SCO, it has to be rewritten, that's all.

    Why is it so doubtful for code to have been copied? Have you ever done any coding or kernel development before? Why is it so hard to imagine that out of potentially thousands of developers and tens of millions of lines of code, that a few hundred or thousand could have been copied from another project?

    It happens all the time. Granted, most of the time it happens involves GPL'd projects, MIT licensed projects, or BSD licensed projects - but that doesn't stop it from happening.

    How many stories have we read today about commercial companies stealing GPL'd code and using it in their projects? Is it really so hard to imagine the reverse happening, even if only by one person?

    And yeah, the code would have to be re-written if this did happen, but if it is proven, SCO can seek damages and ask that anyone who is using an OS that uses the code now pay them license fee's (or otherwise upgrade, but how fast do you think that'll happen across the board).

    Also - just because I'm pointing this out doesn't mean I support SCO. I don't, and think they have a weak case, but that doesn't mean I'm gonna automatically jump on the Linux is right bandwagon and be blinded by the facts (when/if) they come out.

  • by madprof ( 4723 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @08:00PM (#6062627)
    Um, he's Finnish. I have to express disbelief that you didn't know that given that it is repeated everywhere.
  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by JosefK ( 21477 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @08:06PM (#6062681)
    "The bigger question is, why does SCO think it can sue IBM for putting stuff into the kernel that SCO doesn't even offer?" 0- August/000557.html

    The SCO v. IBM case arises from Project Monterey, which was a joint venture between SCO and IBM to port Unix to IA-64 or some such thing. IBM eventually pulled the plug, and focused instead on Linux.

    SCO's primary claims against IBM seem to be that IBM took code that had been either brought by SCO into the project, or (more likely) developed by/in conjunction with IBM as part of the project, and used it in its subsequent Linux development.

    So, even though SCO's products didn't (don't?) have the enterprise features they are accusing IBM of "stealing" from SCO, it seems to be their contention that the Project Monterey work was intended to develop such features, thus the claims for breach of contract and unfair competition.

    SCO claims of pre-existing IP violations in "every" Linux distro would have no bearing on the IBM case.
  • Re:timing (Score:3, Informative)

    by JimDabell ( 42870 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @08:10PM (#6062708) Homepage

    IANAL, but there are no grounds for suing Linus unless SCO can prove that Linus was aware of infringement and knowingly let it occur

    It doesn't matter if Linus wrote the code himself and had never heard of SCO. A patent covers independent implementations.

    Even if he got hit with a multi-million dollar lawsuit, Linus could just pack up and go home. Software patents aren't legal in Europe.

  • by RoLi ( 141856 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @08:11PM (#6062718)
    Actually SCO would have to file a seperate lawsuit because this lawsuit is about trade secrets.

    I'm sure that you know very well that trade secrets can't and therefore don't have to be put back into secrecy after they have been published. The only consequence is that the leaker (which would be IBM) would have to compensate the owner of the loss.

    So Linux doesn't even have to be changed, they can continue to use the no-longer secret trade secrets anyway. The absolute worst-case of this suit is IBM being fined.

    So please, "sumbry", put your lies and FUD elsewhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @08:14PM (#6062740)
    Andrew Tanenbaum, the guy who wrote the operating system for educational purposes; some people who have taken operating systems classes may remember him as the guy that wrote their textbook as well.

    Actually, what's interesting is why Minix was written. AT&T had allowed the source code to UNIX to be freely distributed to universities, etc. Then someone realized that there was commerical potential in UNIX and they began restricting access to the source.

    Because it's frequently useful to have a functioning model at which to look when studying a subject, Minix was born to fill the missing educational void created by the commercialization of UNIX. It was designed to be big enough to be a real operating system, but small enough for one person to pretty much keep in his head at one time. Linux was created because there were a number of people who wanted to pile stuff into Minix which Tanenbaum didn't want there.

  • by shane_rimmer ( 622400 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @08:15PM (#6062747)
    clickable link [] to the SCO message board on Yahoo to get rid of the added spaces in the URL.
  • by headbonz ( 156721 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @08:30PM (#6062875)
    ...given this SCO response [] to Novell's recent open letter []. It says, and I quote,

    "SCO® owns the contract rights to the UNIX® operating system. SCO has the contractual right to prevent improper donations of UNIX code, methods or concepts into Linux® by any UNIX vendor." (Italics mine).

    They go on to say that:

    "Copyrights and patents are protection against strangers. Contracts are what you use against parties you have relationships with. From a legal standpoint, contracts end up being far stronger than anything you could do with copyrights."

    For those who won't take the time to read the Novell letter, Novell claims to hold all of the patents and copyrights for the Unix operating system, thus refuting SCO's claim to IP rights.


    "Depth is to your life what dead air is to a talk show."

    Thomas de Zengatita
  • by Gunzour ( 79584 ) <slashdot AT tycoononline DOT com> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @09:00PM (#6063076) Homepage Journal
    Well, it's still trading way above where it was before all this started. Wall street pumped this stock up pretty much, and if any insiders are selling, I hope the SEC is taking notes. Looks like a pretty blatant pump-and-dump to me.

    SCOX stock closing prices:

    Feb-28-03: $1.85
    Mar-31-03: $2.88
    Apr-30-03: $3.15
    May-19-03: $6.80 (SCO Announces UNIX licensing deal with Microsoft)
    May-22-03: $8.89
    May-27-03: $8.71
    May-28-03: $6.60

    I was *very* tempted to short this stock earlier today even though I've never shorted a stock in my life, and it looks like it would have paid off.
  • I haven't seen the contract. But it sounds as if Novell would be happy to release SCO from that obligation.


  • Re:why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) * <> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @09:09PM (#6063151) Homepage Journal
    You can generally get disclosures of insider trading on the web. I think I used to do it at . When I worked for HP, I watched Carly's trades and those of other executives.


  • I just took a gander at the linked message board. The posts by the 'linux community' are not helping.

    Grow up, people. Do you really expect to be taken seriously by investors when you post shit like: "SCO LONGS = F*CKING IDIOTS"

  • by Arandir ( 19206 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @09:25PM (#6063299) Homepage Journal
    You're failing to see the huge point looming over your head while you nitpick the trivial to death.

    BSD got seriously hurt in the *perception* department. Linux itself was started because it was *perceived* that BSD was encumbered. I agree that IBM/Linus/SuSE/etc will be able to win any case SCO lobs at them. But Linux will still garner a undeserved negative perception among the public. Imagine every news article mentioning Linux for the space of one or two years quoting McBride in paragraph one.

    The perception won't affect the geeks, nerds and hackers much, but it will affect the general public. Who will want to buy the latest embedded Linux doodad if they perceive they might get sued for it? Who will want to repartion their harddrive to try out Linux if they might get sued for it. Who will want to hire you as a known Linux programmer since you might introduce some "infected" code into the company's project? The perception may be stupid, but last I checked stupidity ruled the world.
  • by kazbah ( 600283 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @09:45PM (#6063436)
    The threat to sue Linus is over patent infringemnt. If (big if as Novell claims that SCO doesn't own the patents) SCO has software patents that cover portions of UNIX that Linux copies or emulates, even if it is not the same source code, there could still be patent infringement. This is, more or less, one of the reasons that GIF files were dropped as file formats from open source graphics programs - there was a patent that was being defended (valid or not it doesn't really make a difference) for the compression method used in GIF files. Rather than continue using the file format and end up in muddy patent law, it was dropped and PNG files became the defacto replacement. IIRC, none of the open source software used any code from the original compression libraries - just the methodology - but that could still infringe on the (stupid) patent.
  • Re:WTF? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Enry ( 630 ) <enry@wayga.QUOTEnet minus punct> on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @10:44PM (#6064007) Journal
    The last I heard from the SCO Information Minister was that three independent (yet unnamed) groups have reviewed the code bases and found similarities.

    But this is getting really strange. Let's take a look at a few scenarios:

    1) SCO has a patent, implemented by IBM, released as patch to stock kernel.

    IBM gets sued for patent infringement, retracts patch from locations it's distributing it, noone can implement it without paying SCO.

    2) SCO has a patent, implemented by IBM, submitted to Linus and part of stock kernel

    If the offending patent is implemented in a kernel relased by SCO, they're SOL for the patent infringement because of the GPL. They may still be able to sue IBM for breach of contract, but the offending code and implementation could remain.

    3) SCO has code lifted by IBM, relased as patches

    Trade secrets are different than patents as they can have no expiration date, but if it gets out, you have no recourse. Which is why you don't see patents for Coca-cola. It's a trade secret. If you know the secret and ever divulge it, there's probably enough legal paperwork you signed to make you wish you were in pound-me-in-the-ass prison instead of the hell the Coke lawyers will send you.

    4) SCO has code lifted by IBM, released as part of stock kernel.

    Again, maybe they could sue IBM, but SCO has also released the offending code. Thus they would have no recourse against Linus.

    So the only situation that could actually cause Linux grief is #1. But the patch wouldn't be part of the stock kernel, meaning that it would not affect all Linux users. But as has been pointed out before, SCO doesn't seem to have many patents. Certainly nothing they could sue Linus for.
  • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Informative)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @10:50PM (#6064065) Homepage
    Software technology simply isn't as dynamic as people like Gates would have you believe. Much of the ballyhoed "innovation" in the PC space is merely the re-implementation of much older solutions developed long ago in more serious computer systems.

  • by dachshund ( 300733 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @11:34PM (#6064442)
    Linus should and frankly MUST sue SCO for copyright infringement for distributing a derivitive of his work without a licence. In fact, any other kernel contributor could do the same so long as their original work is included in what SCO has distributed.

    It depends whether or not SCO continued to distribute after they'd verified that their proprietary IP had entered the Linux codebase, and for how long.

    If they stopped distribution, or removed the offending code after discovering it, then it could be said that they'd made a good-faith effort to obey the terms of the GPL. Do they lose the right to control that proprietary code? Probably not. Can they continue to distribute? No. Should they be held responsible for copyright violations? Probably not.

    If you did allow Linus or the FSF to sue for copyright infringement, you'd essentially be saying that SCO should be penalized because somebody else stole their proprietary code and stuck it into a piece of Open Source Software that-- unknown to them-- passed through their hands. That's a pretty perverse result.

    In fact, section 7 of the GPL offers some clarifications on this. It says that any company that knows it cannot legally redistribute must cease distribution. It does not necessarily hold that a company may be penalized for previous distributions where it acted in good faith, but was undermined by the actions of some third party.

    In fact, the GPL is not at all clear on this situation, which is why it would be problematic if it went to court. A judge would have to make a very tough call, and the results are hard to predict.

  • Re:why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by pirodude ( 54707 ) on Wednesday May 28, 2003 @11:57PM (#6064643)
    You can read up on what the execs are up to here: []
  • by ( 311775 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @12:23AM (#6064823) Homepage Journal
    This is from their 10-K filing in Jan. Why would they pay if they owned it?

    "Restricted Cash and Royalty Payable to Novell, Inc.

    The Company has an arrangement with Novell, Inc. ("Novell") in which it acts as an administrative agent in the collection of royalties for customers who deploy SVRx technology. Under the agency agreement, the Company collects all customer payments and remits 95 percent of the collected funds to Novell and retains 5 percent as an administrative fee. The Company records the 5 percent administrative fee as revenue in its consolidated statements of operations. The accompanying October 31, 2002 and 2001 consolidated balance sheets reflect the amounts collected related to this agency agreement but not yet remitted to Novell of $1,428,000 and $1,894,000, respectively, as restricted cash and royalty payable to Novell. The October 31, 2001 balances were reclassified from cash and equivalents and other royalties payable to conform to the current year presentation. "

    Read for yourself:

    HERE []
  • Tip of the iceberg (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ogerman ( 136333 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @12:44AM (#6064939)
    What many people don't realize is that there are literally tens of thousands of bogus patents out there relating to all aspects of software, interface designs, methods of data communication, etc. The ugly reality is that the USPTO pretty much rubber stamps everything that comes their way without much review. If you look hard enough, pretty close to every substantial piece of code in existance, Open Source or proprietary, likely violates somebody's nonsense patent. While these bogus patents are rarely enforced, the SCO situation is proof that the danger exists, even at an 'unfounded threat' level. But as proprietary software empires fall to Free alternatives, we will quite likely see more of this nonsense.

    The long and short of it: our basic freedoms, especially speech, are being squelched by overzealous patenting. You cannot write software today without worrying about accidentally "re-inventing" or bumping into somebody's supposedly patented idea The modern patent system has decayed precisely into what Thomas Jefferson envisioned when he wrote: "..For to embarrass society with monopolies for every utensil existing, and in all the details of life, would be more injurious to them than had the supposed inventors never existed; because the natural understanding of its members would have suggested the same things or others as good." AND.. "the abuse of frivolous patents is likely to cause more inconvenience than is countervail by those really useful"

    Software patents must be eliminated. All of them. They are a threat to free speech and expression. They are a threat to innovation. They are a threat to the Open Source movement. Software patents are by very nature trivial--something the USPTO is not supposed to allow.

    With that in mind, here are some links to get you started on some anti-software-patent activism:
    http ://
    h ttp://

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 29, 2003 @01:22AM (#6065183)
    Who says that's from the Slashdot crowd? Are you familiar with Yahoo Finance Boards? That's standard fare in la-la land. In fact, I couldn't help but laugh when someone recommended posting there to be seen by serious investors. After a few days of reading, serious investors go elsewhere for most stocks. Just look at the Sun or Oracle boards for an example. Complete waste of time...
  • by imhotep1 ( 674470 ) <`imhotep1' `at' `'> on Thursday May 29, 2003 @02:05AM (#6065376)

    If Novell is correct, SCO doesn't hold the copyrights. The Open Group owns the Unix trademark. A quick search of the US Patent office [] (my actual search query is here [].) reveals that SCO doesn't have any Unix related patents before November of 1993 (after Linus had written the kernel)

    So really, this whole lawsuit has lept headfirst from a giant joke into something well beyond offensive.

  • FUCK SCO (Score:3, Informative)

    by rsklnkv ( 532866 ) <rsklnkv.houseofthedead@org> on Thursday May 29, 2003 @02:40AM (#6065505) Homepage Journal
    Send your complaints here :
  • Re:I don't think so (Score:3, Informative)

    by bwt ( 68845 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @03:22AM (#6065624) Homepage
    But it is the GPL that exposes you to potentially being non-compliant, even when you've made all reasonable efforts to comply.

    No different from any other copyright licence in this regard. You better get it right. They have NOT made a reasonable effort to comply with the GPL. They want Linus's code, but they don't want to abandon rights to things they ship with it.

    If someone breaks into your company and steals proprietary code, all they have to do is insert it into a GPLed software package that you also contribute to and distribute. At that point, you're screwed.

    I think you are getting at a fair question: if SCO legitimately owned proprietary code and discovered that IBM had mixed with GPL'd code, what should they have done?

    The answer is very simple: they should have immediately sent IBM and the Linux community a C&D letter stating what parts of the code were proprietary. They should have refused to ship that code themselves under the GPL.

    Does this place a burden on them to actually understand everything they ship? Yes, it does, but only if they want to keep their proprietary stuff cleanly separated from their GPL stuff.

    Any company that relies on proprietary code and also works on GPLed code could be at risk.

    Not quite. Only if the company wants to ship two such code bases that are candidates for mixing. Consider Corel from before: there was little risk that WorkPerfect code and linux code would intermix.

    Furthermore, it would pretty much confirm Microsoft's earlier ramblings about the GPL putting a company's IP at risk.

    They were overdoing it. The risk is only there if you mix code and distribute the result. Most USERS of GPL code aren't going to distribute modifications of it to others, and if they do, they'll have looked at the diff. Even if you modify GPL code, your extensions don't become GPL until you distribute them.

    Consider Oracle. They released a clustered file system under the GPL. What proprietary rights have they lost -- just the ones contained in what they GPL'd. All they have to do is make sure they know exactly what's in the code they ship. If somebody else sends them a patch that adds large chunks of their proprietary RDBMS code in, should they blindly smile and ship it out? Um, no. They should be checking every patch submission they get.
  • Re:WTF? (Score:2, Informative)

    by MonkeyDluffy ( 577002 ) on Thursday May 29, 2003 @06:43AM (#6066173)
    That's the point, Einstein. 3 years ago Linux was a complete joke compared with UNIXWare.

    You obviously are unfamiliar with Linux 3 years ago. Linux supported more hardware, ReiserFS was available, and Linux supported more processors in SMP.

    Unixware is the same base codebase as Solaris

    Dream on. Solaris is heavily rewritten - the enterprise features in Solaris are not part of the SysV codebase. And SCOs products still lack them. So a Linux vs Solaris debate won't help you.


Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"