SCO adds copyright claim to IBM suit

The company significantly widens its Unix and Linux lawsuit against IBM, adding a copyright infringement claim to the already complicated case, sources say.

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SCO Group has significantly widened its Unix and Linux lawsuit against IBM, adding a copyright infringement claim to the already complicated case, sources said Thursday.

The Lindon, Utah-based company amended its claims against IBM on the eve of a hearing about what information Big Blue needs to disclose to SCO, one of numerous steps along the path to a scheduled trial date of April 11, 2005.

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Copyright infringement is a major new element to SCO's current accusations that IBM breached its contract with SCO and misappropriated trade secrets by moving technology developed for proprietary Unix to open-source Linux. The case has injected some uncertainty into a computing industry that for the most part has eagerly embraced Linux, but analysts such as IDC say the suit doesn't appear to have slowed the operating system's growth.

SCO spokesman Blake Stowell declined to comment on the expanded legal attack--the company's second amended complaint against IBM--other than to say SCO plans a news announcement after Friday's hearing.

However, in a Dec. 5, 2003, hearing, SCO attorneys said the company planned to add a copyright infringement claim. And in a Wednesday filing with the court, SCO attorneys sought permission to amend their current charges against IBM.

In the motion requesting permission to amend the complaint, SCO said it might well amend its claims again once it begins receiving new information from IBM, a pipeline that Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells shut off at the December hearing.

"It is anticipated that IBM may reveal through discovery additional evidence relevant to the issues raised by its counterclaim and that SCO may in fact request future opportunity to align its claims once IBM's (sic) resumes the process of complying with its discovery obligations," SCO's attorneys said in the motion.

Wells decreed at the December hearing that SCO should meet IBM's information requests but issued a stay until Friday on IBM complying with SCO's information requests. Friday's hearing will address the issue of what information IBM should provide.

In SCO's first amended filing in June, the company increased the damages it's seeking from IBM to $3 billion, a sizable step up from the $1 billion it sought in the first claim, which was filed in March.

IBM denies wrongdoing. Its countersuit accuses SCO of violating four IBM patents.

SCO, which licensed Unix to IBM, Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, Silicon Graphics and others, argues it owns the copyright to the operating system. However, Novell, which owned Unix before selling it to SCO's predecessor in 1995, argues that it still owns the copyright.

SCO sued Novell in January over these copyright claims. The stakes of the tug-of-war between Novell and SCO have increased with Novell's January acquisition of SuSE Linux, the No. 2 Linux seller after Red Hat.

SCO, meanwhile, has said the copyright claims will be involved in a lawsuit it plans against at least one large-scale Linux user.