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11/16/2004
11:59 AM
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Toasted SCO

SCO's tenure as the most hated tech company in the world may soon be over. As a matter of fact, its tenure as a company may soon be over, period, if a Novell legal filing posted on Groklaw last week turns out to be nearly as big as it seems.

SCO's tenure as the most hated tech company in the world may soon be over. As a matter of fact, its tenure as a company may soon be over, period, if a Novell legal filing posted on Groklaw last week turns out to be nearly as big as it seems.

Novell executives, you may recall, have long insisted that when the company sold its Unix code to what was then the Santa Cruz Organization, it retained the copyrights. The modern-day SCO, which is pursuing a $5 billion lawsuit against IBM for contributing SCO-copyrighted Unix code to Linux, didn't like this very much. No copyrights, most likely no lawsuit, either.

SCO's solution: sue Novell for falsely claiming to own the Unix copyrights, something legal types call "slander of title."

Novell's response: make SCO look like a bunch of bozos by shooting their legal case full of more holes than John Dillinger's hat.

Mission accomplished.

Last week, according to Groklaw (if you don't know what the site is about, go see for yourself--right now), Novell produced minutes from a 1995 board of directors meeting which clearly state that the company retained its Unix copyrights. Since SCO has to prove that Novell's ownership claims were a "knowing falsehood," this document is more than just a smoking gun--it's a smoking cannon.

Things were already looking bad for SCO, since Novell had also produced, among other documents, a May 2003 letter from SCO asking them to transfer the Unix copyrights they supposedly already owned. SCO's attorneys have soldiered on through this charade with all the fortitude $31 million can buy, but it must be getting tough for these guys to show up in court with straight faces.

SCO isn't the only company in the world to turn litigation into a business model, but it was the most visible. Most of the legal pundits I've seen weigh in on this case, however, are convinced the company's ambulance-chasing days are over. Unless SCO figures out fast how to earn an honest living--a remote possibility, given the enemies the company has made--it might be time to dig a fresh hole in the corporate graveyard.

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