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SCO to Novell: See you in court

SCO Group executives say the company's copyright dispute with Novell doesn't affect its legal campaign against Linux, but the issue may result in a lawsuit, anyway.

SCO Group executives said Friday that the company's copyright dispute with Novell doesn't affect its legal campaign against Linux, but the issue may result in a lawsuit, anyway.

Darl McBride, chief executive of SCO, said the Linux dispute is based on contracts that IBM and numerous other companies signed with SCO in order to license the Unix operating system. Copyright issues raised by Novell, from which SCO bought the rights to Unix, are irrelevant, McBride said during a conference call with media and analysts.

"The copyright issues are not important to our current enforcement actions and anything happening in the marketplace," he said.

But copyrights may figure in with subsequent enforcement actions, he said, so SCO is preparing to take Novell to court to settle those issues.

"To the extent we want to deal with copyright issues down the road, we have our attorneys working on that," McBride said. "As far as claims Novell is making...we'll be settling those in court."

SCO stunned the technology world in March when it sued IBM for $1 billion, alleging that Linux software that Big Blue has distributed illegally appropriates portions of the Unix source code that SCO owns. IBM denied the allegations and said it will fight the suit.

SCO delivered a second blow this month when it sent letters to 1,500 corporations using Linux, saying their use of the open-source operating system could expose them to similar liability. Industry analysts viewed the move as an escalation of the struggling company's intellectual property war and an attempt to make SCO an acquisition target.

Novell entered the fray this week, claiming that SCO's case is invalid, because Novell still holds key Unix copyrights and patents. "To Novell's knowledge, the 1995 agreement governing SCO's purchase of Unix from Novell does not convey to SCO the associated copyrights," Novell Chief Executive Jack Messman said in a letter to SCO.

McBride characterized Novell's move as "a desperate measure to curry favor with the Linux community." He also questioned the timing of Novell's announcement, which was made the same day that SCO announced quarterly earnings.

"Novell timed their announcement to coincide with our earnings try and screw that up," McBride said.

A Novell representative said the company wasn't aware of SCO's scheduled earnings release and that the timing of Novell's announcement was coincidental.

McBride and Chris Sontag, head of the company's SCOsource Unix licensing initiative, reiterated promises to begin showing samples of infringing Linux source code to customers, analysts and press representatives willing to sign nondisclosure agreements.

"The month of June is show-and-tell time," McBride said. "Everybody's been clamoring for the code...and we're going to show hundreds of lines of code."