Open-source firm offers to protect customers from lawsuits

Software seller OpenLogic says it will indemnify buyers against legal action connected with its open-source products.

Richard Thurston Special to CNET News
2 min read
OpenLogic, a provider of open-source software for enterprises, is offering indemnification against legal action for companies using its code.

The Broomfield, Colo.-based company, which made the announcement on Monday, is the latest in a stream of suppliers to try to protect its customers from lawsuits. Its offer covers intellectual property infringement cases stemming from use of the open-source products included in its Certified Library.

The open-source community has been closely following the SCO Group-IBM case, which kicked off in 2003, after the Utah-based company sued IBM for more than $1 billion, claiming Big Blue's contributions to the Linux operating system included Unix code owned by SCO.

OpenLogic has pledged protection from legal action to customers who download its code and then purchase its support packages.

That includes indemnification for intellectual property infringements, including defense of claims, repair and replacement of infringing software, and up to four times the value of the contract for damage awards.

OpenLogic owns a library that is a starting point towards helping enterprise developers customize their own stacks. It also sells a tool that helps businesses manage their open-source software.

But the cover will be invalidated if the code is modified, OpenLogic said. "For enterprises to fully embrace a broad range of open source products, they need to be able to deploy, manage and control their open source usage and limit their legal risk," said Steven Grandchamp, the company's chief executive.

OpenLogic's indemnification policy--which covers most popular open-source products, apart from Linux--applies to both the U.S. and the U.K.

The ongoing uncertainty over the legal status of some open-source software has caused considerable concern among some enterprise users, particularly after SCO also sued car manufacturer DaimlerChrysler, a Unix licensee.

"Although the benefits of using open-source software are many, there can sometimes be lingering legal concerns around using open-source software in the enterprise," said Andrew Aitken, managing partner of Olliance Group, an open-source consultancy.

Lloyd's of London last year offered to underwrite open source software against claims of intellectual property infringement. Hewlett-Packard, Red Hat and Novell all offer policies covering specific distributions.

The SCO dispute has now been rumbling on for three years, dragging into it a host of other companies, including Microsoft, which court papers claim indirectly invested in SCO.

Richard Thurston reported for ZDNet UK in London.