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SCO sets lawyers on Novell

Nov 25, 20034 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsLinux

* SCO accuses Novell of violating non-compete agreement by buying SuSE

I was really hoping to keep the “Linux” word out of this newsletter today but events, as they say, have overtaken my resolve. Last week, former Novell bag carrier Darl MacBride (he was formerly vice president and general manager of Novell’s Extended Networks Division a.k.a. “NEST” – Novell Embedded Systems Technology), now the devil-in-chief at The SCO Group announced that SCO is ready to sue Novell over the acquisition of SuSE Linux.

Well, why not – SCO’s suing just about everyone else in the operating system business as well as threatening to sue most of its customers.

According to a story last week by the IDG News Service, MacBride claims that Novell’s planned acquisition of SuSE will put it in violation of a non-compete agreement the networking vendor has with SCO. This charge appears to be cut from the same cloth as the previous charge (by SCO) that GNU General Public License “…violates the U.S. Constitution, together with copyright, anti-trust and export control laws.”

When Novell sold Unix System V Release 4 to SCO (along with its UnixWare derivative), there was a non-compete clause in the contract, which according to MacBride prohibits Novell from directly competing with SCO’s Unix-on-Intel business.

Linux isn’t Unix, of course. It may be “Unix-like” (as some have called it), but it certainly ain’t Unix. If it were, then SCO would be suing even more people simply for distributing any Linux product. But it isn’t. SCO is suing IBM for including protected Unix code in a Linux distribution.

SCO can’t re-interpret the non-compete clause to imply that Novell can’t sell any Intel-based operating system, or it would be suing to stop NetWare from being distributed. Of course that would imply that Novell was so dumb as to waive all of the rights to its core product when it sold off (for a pittance, I might add) the Unix stuff that it had acquired from Unix Systems Labs.

On the face of it, this looks like a desperate attempt to coerce Novell into paying its Linden, Utah neighbors a few bucks because of the nuisance value of the suit. But it could be that a “few bucks” might be needed in Linden. In other news last week, SCO announced it is paying close to $9 million in lawyer-fees to cover the suits and filings already announced. And in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, SCO appeared to be saying, in essence, that it isn’t selling much of anything these days.

The official language was: “We are informed that participants in the Linux industry have attempted to influence participants in the markets in which we sell our products to reduce or eliminate the amount of our products and services that they purchase. They have been somewhat successful in those efforts and similar efforts and success will likely continue. There is also a risk that the assertion of our intellectual property rights will be negatively viewed by participants in our marketplace and we may lose support from such participants. Any of the foregoing could adversely affect our position in the marketplace and our results of operations.”

Which is the legal equivalent of saying, “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m going to go and eat worms.”

Maybe it was something in the water. I’d like to suggest that the Environmental Protection Agency investigates the land around MacBride’s old office at Novell. One office mate, former Novell Vice President of AppWare, Joe Firmage (see left hi-tech to pursue his dream of investigating flying saucers. Or maybe BYU graduate (and award-winning science-fiction and fantasy author) Orson Scott Card should take a look.

EDITOR’s NOTE: Due to the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday we will be sending just one newsletter this week. Regular service will resume next week. We wish you and your family a happy Thanksgiving.