originally filed the lawsuit in 2004, accusing Novell of claiming ownership
over Unix SVRx code that SCO acquired after a complicated chain of sales
between the two companies. SCO says it owns all rights to the SVRx code – a
claim that Novell disputes.
(PDF) was ultimately a reversal. After finding that the contested software was
indeed owned by Novell, he proceeded to slap SCO with a variety of charges
including unjust enrichment, conversion, and breach of fiduciary duty.
The IP rights in question originally came from Unix System Laboratories,
formed as a division of AT&T. AT&T, however, sold all of USL’s assets
to Novell in 1993, and then Novell sold the both the USL assets and additional
work to Santa Cruz Operation in 1995. The Santa Cruz Operation marketed and
sold a PC-based Unix until 2000, after which it sold its rights to Caldera
Systems – who later changed its name to the SCO Group.
The sale between Novell and Santa Cruz Operation was far from
straightforward, however, and the transfer was conducted through a
vaguely-worded “Asset Purchase Agreement” (APA) that amounted, ultimately, to
only a partial transfer of ownership. Novell claims the agreement did not
include copyrights to the Unix SVRx source code. Judge Kimball’s interpretation
of the APA sided with Novell in 2007.
In its SCOScource licensing program, SCO used its supposed ownership of UNIX
to assert control over the Linux operating system, which it claims uses source
code originally written for UNIX. The company then proceeded to attack a variety
of companies that use Linux in their infrastructure, including IBM,
DaimlerChrysler, and AutoZone. Much of the details regarding copyrighted code
are still under seal in SCO v. IBM.
Groklaw called the reversal of fortunes “ironic,” noting that the case
“started with SCO accusing Novell of slander of title, and asking for millions
“Instead it has to pay Novell millions,” it added.
Many have described
Novell’s victory as lukewarm; noting that the damages prescribed may not be
enough to truly stop SCO in its tracks, despite the company’s already
questionable financial situation – which includes Chapter
11 filings in September 2007.
Kimball’s ruling allows both parties to appeal the decision, and could
prolong the already drawn-out case even further.