In its ongoing battle to protect its intellectual property, the\u00a0SCO Group\u00a0is stepping up its focus on corporate Linux users. The software maker now plans to send invoices to companies in an effort to levy fees for the use of Linux, which SCO claims illegally contains its copyrighted Unix code.The plan escalates a program the company\u00a0launched in August\u00a0in which it urged customers using Linux based on kernel 2.4 or higher to buy the SCO Intellectual Property License for Linux. The license, which is being offered for $700 per CPU until Oct. 15 (when the price will double), is aimed at getting customers \u201cclean\u201d and \u201csquare\u201d with Linux \u201cwithout having to go into the courtroom,\u201d according to SCO CEO Darl McBride.The invoices, which will be sent out sometime this month or next, \u201chelp formalize the process of buying a license,\u201d says SCO spokesman Blake Stowell. It wasn\u2019t clear how SCO would determine the invoice charges.\u201cWe are doing a lot of research on who\u2019s using Linux and where they\u2019re using it. Beyond that I don\u2019t have any other details as to how we may invoice companies,\u201d Stowell says.At this point, users seem unfazed by this latest twist in SCO\u2019s protracted battle to protect its intellectual property rights, which began in March with a lawsuit against IBM, but has since escalated into a skirmish with corporate Linux users. Most users say they wouldn\u2019t consider paying SCO, while others say they might pay up just to get rid of the headache.\u201cIf you think about how little you pay for Linux as it is, $699 for a box just to not have to deal with it is not that bad,\u201d says an IT executive, who asked not to be named. \u201cFor me, the issue is it\u2019s an annoyance.\u201dThe user says he hasn\u2019t offered to buy an IP license for Linux, but if an invoice arrived on his desk he\u2019d pay. \u201cFor anything less than $5,000, I would just pay them to make it go away,\u201d he says.Bill Claybrook, an analyst at the Aberdeen Group, says paying such a fee would be ridiculous at this point.\u201cIt\u2019s foolish for anyone to go out and buy licenses for Linux because there is a very good chance that you won\u2019t have to at all,\u201d he says. \u201cAnd if you do have to, it isn\u2019t going to be any more than it is now. So why bother?\u201dWhile the Linux community for the most part has scoffed at SCO\u2019s efforts to charge license fees for Linux, the company claims that it had 900 calls in the first week that it began offering the license, 300 of which were companies seriously considering buying a license. In addition, at least\u00a0one company, a Fortune 500 firm that SCO would not name, has purchased a license for \u201ca significant amount.\u201dSCO\u2019s lawsuit against IBM isn\u2019t scheduled for trial until April 2005. And copyright violations within Linux, which might effect commercial Linux users, isn\u2019t even part of that original filing, Stowell says.\u201cThe trial specifically just addresses Unix derivative code that IBM contributed to Linux,\u201d he says. \u201cThis [SCO Intellectual Property Linux License] would certainly cover that, but in addition the license also covers line-by-line copying of direct Unix System code from Unix into Linux. We\u2019ve never accused IBM of direct line-by-line copying.\u201dSnippets of code that SCO claims are in violation have been discounted by Linux advocates who say the code at issue is legally part of Linux. Stowell says customers can take a look at the code in question \u2014 under a non-disclosure agreement \u2014 and then make up their own minds.\u201cIf a company looks at that and still refuses to take out a license it\u2019s very possible that it would be at that point that we would take legal action,\u201d he says. \u201cAnd that\u2019s when it would probably be proven in a court of law.\u201dMeantime, SCO has found itself on the losing side of a court case in Germany in which it was\u00a0fined\u00a0$10,000 for continuing to include a letter on its German Web site that claims intellectual property violations in Linux. A German court had ruled that SCO could not make such claims without corresponding evidence.\u201cWe felt that the document in question on our German site, which was written in English, was an oversight on our part and we are currently deciding whether to appeal the fine or to just pay,\u201d Stowell says.