21 January 2005 Controversial software maker the SCO Group has won a rare victory in its continuing $1 billion battle with technology giant IBM over who owns the rights to disputed Unix code.
A US judge has ordered IBM to turn over two billion lines of its software code from its AIX and Dynix Unix operating system to SCO. SCO maintains that IBM is using its intellectual property without its consent.
Judge Brooke Wells ruled code must be handed over by 11 February 2005. Notes, design documents and white papers of the 3,000 most influential programmers in the development of AIX and Dynix must be produced by 18 March.
“We look forward to obtaining this important discovery so we can continue with our preparation for trial,” said a SCO spokesman.
However this victory could prove to hinder rather than help SCO. It made a $23.4 million loss in its 2004 fiscal year and has remaining assets of just $55.4 million compared to $95 million a year previously. SCO does not have the financial resources to spend a lot of time scouring the IBM code and then fight a lengthly court battle.
The feud began in March 2003 when SCO filed a $1 billion lawsuit alleging contract violation, centred on SCO’s claim that IBM used its code to develop its Unix systems.
But the results could have devastating consequences for the popular open source operating system Linux. IBM is a major backer of Linux, and much of the disputed code is thought to have made its way into the Linux code set.
In filing the action, SCO has cast a shadow over the open source movement. While open source software has made significant inroads into the enterprise, businesses could decide to halt further implementations were complaints about the ownership of the source code to be validated.
IBM has staunchly rebuked SCO’s claims. It says the AT&T agreements on which SCO based its claims do not prevent IBM using or disclosing its own source code.
And while awaiting the resolution of the case, SCO has mounting financial concerns. Its sales have collapsed, and some of its backers have pulled out. SCO must hope that this latest upturn will sustain it long enough to see the legal battle reach fruition. The trial is expected to start in November.