Still, IP attorney Carey expects the fear, doubt and uncertainty of litigation may entice some CIOs to sign SCO source licenses. SCO has only signed a "handful" of such licenses with customers since launching its licensing program last August.
"This is likely to make large corporate Linux users consider more carefully the possible attraction of signing a licensing agreement with SCO," said Carey, an IP attorney and partner in Bromberg & Sunstein, Boston. "If a financial officer takes a hard look at it, they might decide that taking a license from SCO is cheaper than fending off a lawsuit."
He acknowledged that such a move could nullify customer savings by choosing open source over Windows and Unix but signing a license on a few servers could ease their headaches.
"There are some Linux promoters who assembled pot of money to help defend customers if a case is brought but that will only go so far," Carey claimed.
SCO has threatened to take legal action against customers since launching its first case against IBM last March and twice sent warning letters to Fortune 1000 customers, including one cease-and-desist letter dated Dec. 18 that charged select companies with illegally using more than 65 SCO-owned Application Binary Interfaces (ABIs) without permission.
Several vendors including HP stepped up to the plate to offer their own customers indemnification from legal costs of a case. IBM and Red Hat have not matched that offer.
"HP stands firmly behind its indemnification offer and will vigorously defend its customers against SCO-related lawsuits," HP said in a statement released on Tuesday. "All HP customers who
have purchased HP Linux-based products and services according to the terms HP outlined will have legal protection without any limits.
One leader in the open source movement claimed fear of litigation is not a big issue in the minds of CIOs looking to deploy Linux.
"Fear of legal exposure through open-source licensing never even makes the radar as a problem," said Eric S. Raymond, an early leader of the open source movement and president of Open Source Initiative, who cited IT manager surveys completed by Gartner, Forrester Research and D.H. Brown. "All the concern is about interoperability, TCO [Total Cost Of Ownership] and retraining costs. All of SCO's huffing and puffing has amounted to a big fat zero in actual results, and I see no reason to believe that will change."
Linux ISVs, consultants and customers are standing firm in the wake of the end user lawsuit.
""To date, no decision has been made on SCO's claims by any court of law and it's clear that in spite of SCOs lawsuit, Linux adoption by our customers has continued unabated," said Peter Eck, vice president of
marketing for BakBone Software, a member of the Open source Development Labs and a Linux ISV that makes storage solutions. "We don't see how this latest legal maneuver will change that."
One Linux solution provider scoffed at the case filed on Tuesday.
"Let's put it this way. I was at Software 2004 [Monday] when [SCO CEO Darl]McBride spoke. Three quarters of the audience left the room [when he announced SCO was launching the customer lawsuit]," said Chris Maresca, senior partner at the Olliance Group, a Linux consultancy in Palo Alto, Calif. "So, no, I don't think that SCO will have any impact. If anything, open Source and Linux adoption are actually accelerating.