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CMP Information Week
InformationWeek Daily - Friday, Oct 12, 2007


Editor's Note

Time To Break Out The 'Prove It' Pins Again, Mr. Szulik?

Red Hat CEO Matthew Szulik is not known for avoiding conflicts that threaten his company. So how much longer will it be before he unleashes his legal team to defend against Microsoft's patent accusations in the same way he railed against SCO Group's copyright claims?

I have this bright red pin hanging in my cubicle with the phrase "Prove It!" boldly plastered across the middle. It's a trinket I saved from 2003. That summer, SCO Group began talking loudly in the press that Linux-based companies should be forewarned: They were at risk of Unix copyright infringement -- similar to the claims SCO made against IBM

After a few months of airing out each other's dirty laundry and brandishing legal threats, Szulik had enough and laid down the gauntlet. The result was a seven-count complaint filed in Delaware asking SCO to back off its accusations. Red Hat lawyers asked the courts for a permanent injunction holding SCO accountable for what Szulik called "unsubstantiated innuendo and rumor."

The straw that broke, Szulik said, was a SCO conference call to investors suggesting that Red Hat created an "atmosphere of fear, doubt, and uncertainty about Linux." Almost immediately, Szulik took up the mantle for Red Hat, SuSE (before Novell), and the other distributions.

"For the past two months, we have listened to these unfounded claims," Szulik said back in August 2003. "We've been patient. We've listened. But when our customers and the whole open source community are threatened with innuendo and rumor, it's time to act. Our goal is to find out the truth. Our suggestion to SCO is to 'prove it.' "

Out went the red buttons. Red Hat's general counsel at the time, Mark Webbink, filed the paperwork. The courts heard both sides. The campaign cost Red Hat time and money, but SCO's claims have been largely overturned in federal district court.

Sound vaguely familiar? Microsoft has done its share of saber rattling around Linux recently. CEO Steve Ballmer has repeatedly claimed that Microsoft IP is found in Linux. "People [who] use Red Hat, at least with respect to our intellectual property, in a sense have an obligation to eventually compensate us," Ballmer said at a Microsoft event last week in London.

What do you think? Should Linux users be worried about Microsoft's threats? To read more of my analysis about parallels between Microsoft's and SCO's Linux offensives, and leave your $0.02, visit the _InformationWeek_ Blog.

Michael Singer
msinger@cmp.com
www.informationweek.com

Quote of The Day

"A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds." -- Sir Francis Bacon

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