A Federal District Court in Utah is scheduled to hear arguments later this week on a key motion in SCO Group's slow-moving lawsuit against IBM over open-source intellectual property.
At the hearing Thursday, SCO will argue that it should be allowed to depose IBM chairman Sam Palmisano. SCO has long sought access to Palmisano, as part of a strategy through which it hopes to uncover code from IBM which infringes on its Unix copyrights.
"Palmisano was very involved with IBM's Linux strategy," SCO spokesman Blake Stowell said, declining to provide further specifics. A document filed with the court in March in which SCO explains in detail its reasons for wanting to depose Palmisano is under currently seal.
However, it's long been believed that SCO wants to get a look at letters and e-mails sent between Palmisano and IBM vice president for technology and strategy Irving Wladawsky-Berger, which could shed light on the thinking of Big Blue's management during the period in which the company developed its AIX and Dynix operating systems.
In January, SCO won its first victory along similar lines when Judge Brooke Wells ordered IBM to let SCO look at its AIX and Dynix source code as part of its search for infringing material. IBM has until May 3 to provide that code to SCO.
IBM officials couldn't be reached for comment at posting time.
However, Bruce Perens, an open-source advocate and SCO opponent who's the founder of the Open Source Initiative, doesn't think it will make much difference whether SCO gets to depose the IBM chairman. "Palmisano has nothing material to say," Perens said. "It's just more fishing on SCO's part."
In the April 21 hearing, both sides will also present to the court proposals for scheduling the upcoming trial in the SCO-IBM case. Originally, that trial was expected to begin in November. Now, it's widely agreed that the case won't come to trial until sometime in 2006.
Along with the IBM battle, SCO remains embroiled in Linux litigation with Novell and Red Hat. When those cases first came to light, Linux users feared they might become legal targets. Lately, those concerns have abated, according to Perens. "A year ago, I think people were worried about these cases," he said. "I saw some Linux business go to Novell, because people thought that Novell was in the best position not to have legal problems with SCO. Now, I think things are looking really good for Linux. So far, it sure looks like we've won, even though the judge hasn't banged down the gavel yet."
As for SCO's other litigation, the Novell case is moving forward slowly. "There's a hearing scheduled for May 25 in the Novell case," Stowell said. "That is to address Novell's second request to have the case dismissed."
There's been no recent activity in the Red Hat case.
On the product front, SCO say it is continuing to move ahead with the development of version 6.0 of its OpenServer Unix. The program recently went into beta release. A formal launch is currently scheduled to take place June 22.