HP outlines Linux indemnification plans

25 September 2003 Hewlett-Packard has outlined its plans to offer Linux customers a legal indemnity against the risk of legal action over potential intellectual claims.

HP has said that it will protect new customers who buy Linux systems from HP, provided they do not to make unauthorised modifications to the Linux source code. Users will nevertheless be free to install updates provided by their Linux system vendors, such as Red Hat and SuSE.

“We’re giving the green light to customers to go ahead with their Linux deployments,” said HP vice president Martin Fink.


The move by HP follows an aggressive legal campaign waged by SCO Group, which owns a number of Unix copyrights and patents, against IBM and big Linux users. It claims its intellectual property has found its way into Linux, although that claim has been strongly refuted by IBM and open source software developers.

At the moment, the legal action merely amounts to a contractual dispute between SCO and IBM. SCO claims that IBM wrongly placed derivative Unix technology into the open source community that SCO had rights to under the terms of IBM’s Unix licensing agreement with SCO.

IBM disputes that claim, suggesting that SCO had no intellectual property rights over that technology. It further charges that SCO itself has distributed the same technology itself under an open source licence, thereby releasing the contentious technology to the open source community itself.

“We went through our internal due diligence process and made a conscious decision [that] there was a risk we were willing to take on behalf of our customers,” said HP’s Fink. SCO claimed that the move reaffirmed its intellectual property claims, but Fink would not be drawn.

  • Open source advocates have challenged SCO Group to reveal the source code for its Linux Kernel Personality (LKP) feature, which enables users of SCO’s UnixWare 7 operating system to run applications written for Linux.

    In an open letter, they challenge SCO CEO Darl McBride to prove that the LKP does not contain code misappropriated from Linux.

    “We particularly wish to check your Linux Kernel Personality (LKP) source code. We suspect that there may be GPL source code taken from the Linux kernel and used in LKP without authorization, and we challenge you to prove this has not happened by showing us your LKP source code, throughout its complete development history to date.”

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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