SCO vs. IBM legal battle over Linux may – finally – be finished

Breach-of-contract and copyright lawsuit dragged on for about 13 years

A breach-of-contract and copyright lawsuit filed nearly 13 years ago by a successor company to business Linux vendor Caldera International against IBM may be drawing to a close at last, after a U.S. District Court judge issued an order in favor of the latter company earlier this week.

Judge David Nuffer said that all of SCO’s claims against IBM are dismissed, and that briefs for a final legal certification of the judgment would be due Feb. 26, with responses, if necessary, on March 11. Nuffer re-opened the case in 2013.

The case, which was filed in March 2003, saw SCO allege that IBM had stolen code from Unix to bolster its Linux services, and ask for US$1 billion in damages. It was seen, in broad terms, as a lawsuit against Linux itself – if SCO could prove that its code was in Linux, everyone selling any kind of Linux-based product would be liable. The company sued several other high-profile companies, including Novell and Red Hat.

Free and open-source software advocates saw the matter as a cause celebre, and the award-winning FOSS legal news site Groklaw got its start covering the case, always from a stridently anti-SCO point of view, but couched in meticulous and encyclopedic legal research.

SCO was always the underdog in the case, and the merits of the case generally favored IBM – the main thrust of the allegation that Linux used code illicitly swiped from Unix was easily disproved in most particulars, but legal maneuvering dragged the case out until 2006, and periodic motions to re-open the case from SCO left it in limbo for another decade.

The case, in fact, outlasted Groklaw, which closed down in 2013. Today’s ruling appears to close the door on further appeals for SCO – and, indeed, on SCO itself, as the company’s sole operations for some time have been the pursuit of its lawsuits against IBM and others. SCO filed for bankruptcy protection in 2007.

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