One IP issue out of OSS Community’s way – SCO Vs. IBM Litigation Ends


One of the first IP litigations to hit the open source community was the suit filed by SCO against IBM in 2003. In the suit, SCO alleged IBM of breach of contract, copyright infringement and trade secret misappropriation, among others. It alleged that IBM’s insertion of portions of UNIX, owned by SCO, into LINUX, amounts to liability on various counts including copyright infringement. SCO initially claimed damages to the tune of one billion dollars, which was later increased to three and five billion dollars.

IBM was not the only company SCO sued. It also went after Novell, Autozone and DaimlerChrysler. Novell contested SCO’s ownership of UNIX and was successful in getting an order in its favour. Novell later announced that it did not intend to go after the Open Source community. After the Novell decision, most of SCO’s claims were limited to breach of contract by IBM.

Rumored to be backed by Microsoft, SCO’s suit gave rise to very strong responses from the open source community. From theft to fraud, several allegations were made against SCO. Many open source proponents claimed that SCO’s claims were unfounded and baseless.

The SCO v. IBM decision seems to be finally over now. The litigation lost steam when SCO filed for bankruptcy. A recent document from District Court of Utah, dated 26th February, 2016, indicates that the case is finally closed. The battle has finally come to an end, and open source community can now rest .

The suit was not without consequences though. It surely opened the doors to law suits against the open source community. Since the SCO suit, the OSS community has seen several cases on a range of issues from license validity to patent infringement.  The case has also led to evolution of several business models to mitigate OSS risks.

References- 1, 2
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