SCO to enforce its intellectual property in Linux world

Linux and Unix users and vendors beware: The SCO Group has hired high-voltage attorney David Boies, former Microsoft Corp. slayer, to look into possible violations of SCO's Unix and Linux intellectual property, the company announced yesterday.

Along those lines, SCO also created a new division entrusted with managing its intellectual property assets, an area over which the company says it wants to keep tighter controls.

The idea is for the company to be "a little bit more aggressive than we have been in the past at enforcing our intellectual property," Chris Sontag, senior vice president of SCO's operating systems division, said yesterday. "We're doing more research than we have in the past to make sure the use of our intellectual property is appropriate ... which hasn't been done in a few years."

In its statement, Lindon, Utah-based SCO claims that it's "the majority owner of Unix intellectual property" and that although Linux is an open-source software, "it shares philosophy, architecture and [application programming interfaces] with Unix." Thus, SCO's licensing push, which involves launching new licensing programs, will be geared toward making sure that users and vendors combine Linux and Unix technology "legitimately," the statement said.

The company's CEO, Darl McBride, said in the statement that "SCO owns much of the core Unix intellectual property and has full rights to license this technology and enforce the associated patents and copyrights."

"In some cases, people may have unknowingly assumed [that SCO's intellectual property] was in the public domain," Sontag said, adding that SCO intends to make its licensing programs "reasonable."

SCO, formerly known as Caldera International Inc., claims that its Unix patents, copyrights and core technology date from 1969, when AT&T Bell Laboratories created the Unix source code.

The new licensing division, called SCOsource, will be aided in its efforts by Boies and his New York-based law firm, Boies, Schiller and Flexner. Boies gained notoriety in the IT world when he served as special trial counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice in its antitrust suit against Microsoft. He was front and center in the effort that culminated with the historic November 1999 decision that Microsoft had abused its monopoly power in the market for PC operating systems.

The first new licensing program launched by the licensing division is SCO System V for Linux, which will give application developers, operating system vendors, end users and hardware and services providers access to SCO's Unix System Shared Libraries for use with Linux, according to SCO. Previously, these Unix libraries couldn't be used outside of the SCO operating systems. Now, licensees will be able to license the entire SCO operating system to use these libraries.

Other SCO licensing programs are in the works.

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