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31 March 2010, 09:49

SCO vs Linux: Jury decides Novell own the Unix copyright

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The jury in the SCO vs. Novell case have decided that the copyrights for Unix were not passed to SCO. SCO had claimed that the copyright had passed to it under the "Amended Asset Purchase Agreement", one of the documents from the deal Novell had made with SCO in 1995, but the case is not over yet.

The decision, reported on Groklaw, means that Novell still retains the copyright to Unix despite selling its Unix business to SCO. SCO's claims against Linux and other operating system makers were made on the basis that it owned the copyright to Unix, including its demands that Linux users purchase an 'antidote licence' from it.

When Novell asserted in 2004 that it still held the copyright to Unix SVRX, SCO responded by suing Novell for "slander of title" and seeking damages. Novell's assertion meant the various infringement cases that SCO had brought were put on hold. In 2007, Judge Dake A. Kimball ruled that the ownership had not been transferred, but last year, that ruling was overturned and the case was put before a jury.

With the burden of proof upon SCO, the jury were asked to only decide in SCO's favour if there was clear and convincing evidence that supported SCO's position. The jury unanimously decided at the end of the three week case that no copyrights were transferred. With that decision, the "slander of title" claim lost its standing.

Novell expressed satisfaction with the result. Ron Hovsepian, Novell CEO said "This decision is good news for Novell, for Linux and for the open source community" adding "I am proud of Novell's role in protecting the best interests of Linux and the open source community".

SCO's bankruptcy trustee, former US District Judge Edward Cahn told the Salt Lake Tribune that he thought SCO had a strong case and his team was "deeply disappointed" by the outcome. "I was quite confident we were going to prevail" said Cahn pointing out the US District Judge Ted Stewart has yet to rule as to whether Novell still needs to transfer the Unix copyright to SCO as part of the sales contract as it was entered into in "good faith". Cahn added "We still have claims against IBM irrespective of this verdict" referring to the separate case of whether IBM had illegally transferred code or programming concepts from Unix to Linux when both SCO and IBM were working on "Project Monterey".

Cahn will also have to decide what to do with the $2 million cash injection that SCO received before this case began. Despite the trustee's confidence, the SCO stock price went into free fall dropping over eighty per cent after the announcement of the jury's verdict.

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