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Novell offers absolution to IBM in SCO spat

The tag team wrestling match among software makers the SCO Group, IBM and Novell has entered another round, with Novell invoking its presumed right to clear IBM.

The tag team wrestling match among software makers the SCO Group, IBM and Novell has entered another round, with Novell invoking its presumed right to clear IBM of any contract violations.

In a on Wednesday, Novell lawyers essentially say that since SCO hasn't conceded to Novell's demands to drop its claims against Sequent, a server company IBM acquired several years ago, Novell will do it for them.

"Novell, on behalf of the SCO Group, hereby waives any purported right SCO may claim to require Sequent (or IBM as its successor) to treat Sequent code as subject to the confidentiality obligations or use restrictions" that SCO claims are part of its Unix contract with IBM, according to the letter.


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SCO rattled the technology world last year when it sued IBM, claiming that the computing giant illegally incorporated into its Linux software source code from the Unix operating system, which SCO controls. The case has since ballooned into a far-ranging attack on Linux, attracting legal attention from Linux leader Red Hat and the ire of Linux supporters worldwide.

Novell joined the fray early on, contending that SCO's purchase of Unix didn't include copyrights. SCO eventually responded by suing Novell for slander, saying Novell's allegedly false claims to controlling Unix have harmed SCO's business.

Novell's latest move cites SCO's failure to meet Novell's recent demand to drop the IBM suit, which relies on a "silver bullet" clause in the 1995 agreement that transfers Unix rights from Novell to SCO. That clause allows Novell to require SCO to "amend, supplement, modify or waive any right" under the license agreements at Novell's request and purportedly allows Novell to act preemptively, if SCO doesn't oblige.

Besides adding another layer of complexity to the IBM case, the clause could come into play, if Novell has to back up its offer to protect Linux users from legal liability. Novell has invoked the clause in previous attempts to protect IBM and high-end computer maker Silicon Graphics Inc. from SCO claims.

SCO disputed Novell's right to act on its behalf. "It is SCO's strongly held legal position that Novell has no rights to step in and change or alter the source code license agreements that SCO owns and holds with its Unix licensees," the company said in a statement. "SCO has no intention of waiving any of its rights against Sequent or IBM. We will deal with Novell on all of these issues in court."