NOW-DEFUNCT UNIX VENDOR SCO has won a surprise victory in the US Court of Appeals against systems giant IBM.
The victory will spark new life - not a lot, but some - into the company's intellectual property claims.
This particular judgement involves SCO's Project Monterey Unix development effort with IBM to create a version of Unix for 64-bit servers - all the old Unix operating system vendors were cutting development deals in the late-1990s and early 2000s in the expectation of rationalisation of both the various Unix operating systems and server makers.
However, Project Monterey - in which both SCO and IBM contributed code and know-how - proved too complex. Sequent and Intel were also involved.
SCO, though, as part of its machine-gunning of legal claims as it went down, claimed that IBM was never interested in Project Monterey and improperly incorporated code from the Project Monterey into its AIX version of Unix.
"Project Monterey involved mutual contributions by IBM and Santa Cruz [SCO] of proprietary materials, including computer code for their respective operating systems.
"SCO believes that IBM merely pretended to go along with the arrangement in order to gain access to Santa Cruz's coveted source code. SCO, the successor-in-interest to Santa Cruz's intellectual property assets, accused IBM of stealing and improperly using this source code to strengthen its own operating system," according to a legal filing published at the end of October.
It continues, implicating Linux in the shenanigans: "SCO also accused IBM of disclosing Santa Cruz's proprietary materials to the computer programming community for inclusion in an open-source operating system called Linux.
When SCO acquired Santa Cruz's assets involved in Project Monterey and then sought licensing agreements from various technology companies, IBM allegedly instructed SCO's business affiliates and investors to cut ties with SCO.
"These alleged efforts to disrupt SCO's business relationships, together with the purportedly improper Linux disclosures, prompted SCO also to file suit against IBM for tortious interference of contract and business relations."
As it turned out, SCO didn't own the Unix intellectual property - Novell did - and almost its entire case against Linux had fallen apart by 2013.
However, that still left SCO's complaints about IBM's behaviour in the Project Monterey débâcle.
In the last legal round, SCO's claims were roundly rejected, but the Court of Appeals has ruled that the District Court's interpretation of what constitutes "misappropriation" and "tortious interference" was too narrow - and has sent the case back for them to try again.
"The district court's order awarding IBM summary judgement on the misappropriation claim is REVERSED, and the matter is REMANDED for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. The district court's order awarding IBM summary judgment on the tortious interference claims is AFFIRMED. The district court's order denying SCO leave to amend its complaint is also AFFIRMED," the Court of Appeals decided.
However, the legal case - now in its 14th year - shouldn't concern Linux users unduly, but any ensuing payout will come out of IBM's shrinking pockets. µ
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