Novell raps SCO claims

The software maker offers new evidence regarding the SCO Group's Unix rights and demands that the company drop its suit against IBM.

David Becker Staff Writer, CNET News.com
David Becker
covers games and gadgets.
David Becker
2 min read
Novell is seeking to undermine the SCO Group's legal claim against IBM with evidence that allegedly shows SCO purchased limited rights to the Unix operating system.

In a letter sent to SCO on Friday, Novell lawyers argue that when Novell purchased Unix from AT&T, the agreement excluded the right to control "derivative works"--subsequent software based on Unix code. Those terms then govern the Unix assets SCO bought from Novell, according to the letter, which invalidates SCO's claims to control Unix-derived software distributed by IBM.

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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 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.

Friday's letter from Novell is aimed at the IBM case and cites a section from a 1985 AT&T customer newsletter as clarifying the company's intentions when it sold Unix to Novell. AT&T said it "claims no ownership in any portion of such a modification or derivative work that is not a part of a software product." It further said it sought to "assure licensees that AT&T will claim no ownership in the software that they developed--only the portion of the software developed by AT&T."

The letter demanded that SCO withdraw certain claims from its IBM suit as of 11 a.m. PST Wednesday. SCO declined.

"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," SCO 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."

Novell also filed a motion Monday to dismiss SCO's slander suit, saying the company hasn't proven that Novell's claims are false. "Without conclusively establishing that it owns the Unix and UnixWare copyrights, SCO cannot show that Novell's statements to the contrary are false, and cannot prevail," according the filing.

The motion also claims SCO's suit fails to establish specific grounds for damages. "SCO's allegations are plainly insufficient," according to the filing. "They are precisely the type of general allegations of some speculative injury that the special damages pleading requirements for a slander of title action are meant to avoid."