IBM Drops Patent Claims Against SCO

In a move to speed up the outcome of an ongoing legal dispute, IBM on Friday agreed to drop its patent infringement claims against the SCO Group.

Big Blue initially filed the claims in August 2003. The countersuit was a response to SCO’s lawsuit that alleged IBM has infringed its Linux patents.

IBM claimed that four SCO products — UnixWare, SCO Manager, Reliant HA, and OpenServer — infringed on its patents. IBM has asked the court to block SCO from developing or selling the four products.

Specifically, IBM claimed violations of its patents for its data compression, navigation of graphical menus, a “self-verifying receipt and acceptance system for electronically delivered data objects,” and monitoring and recovery features in distributed/clustered systems.

Principle of the Matter

However, IBM’s decision to drop the suits does not indicate the company has changed its position. Indeed, Big Blue stated quite the contrary in a footnote to its “Memorandum in Opposition to SCO’s Motion for Leave to Take Additional Depositions.” IBM filed the memorandum to address SCO’s motion for 25 additional depositions relating to IBM’s patent claims.

In its memorandum, IBM said it still believes SCO infringed its valid patents, but agreed to withdraw its patent counterclaims to “simplify and focus the issues in this case and to expedite their resolution.”

“The little discovery that SCO has produced regarding IBM’s patent claims makes clear that there is insufficient economic reason to pursue these claims,” IBM wrote in its memorandum. “Since SCO’s sales have been, and are, limited, a finding of infringement would yield only the most modest royalty or award of damages and would not justify the expense of continuing prosecution of these claims.”

The Saga Continues

The trial was originally scheduled to begin in February 2007. However, Judge Brooke Wells on Friday denied the SCO motion seeking further discovery material from IBM. But will the dropped suit have its intended consequences?

“I believe that anything that would speed up this complex litigation would be welcome by many in the community,” IDC Vice President of System Software and Enterprise Computing Group Dan Kusnetzky told LinuxInsider. “Whether this move will actually result in accelerating the tempo of this process remains to be seen.”

IBM still has eight counterclaims against SCO, including violation of the GPL and a breach of contract suit in a legal battle that has continued for more than three years.

SCO’s Legal Wrangling

SCO also has filed multibillion-dollar suits against Novell, AutoZone and Daimler Chrysler for allegedly infringing on its proprietary Unix code.

SCO filed suit against Novell in January 2004 for Slander of Title in activities surrounding SCO’s purchase of Unix and UnixWare from the company in 1995. Then SCO filed suit against Daimler Chrysler in 2004 for alleged violations of its Unix software agreement.

SCO also filed suit against AutoZone in March 2004 alleging the company violated its Unix copyrights by running versions of the Linux operating system that contain code, structure, sequence and/or organization from its proprietary Unix System V code.

Meanwhile, Red Hat has its own suit against SCO seeking declamatory judgmentfor copyright, trade secrets and false advertising violations.

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