SCO Suit Against DaimlerChrysler Nearly All Dismissed

Michigan judge dismisses nearly all charges against automaker after it certifies that it hasn't used Unix System V for seven years.
A Michigan court Wednesday dismissed most of the SCO Group's lawsuit against DaimlerChrysler Corp., in which SCO accused the German automaker of breaking the terms of its Unix System V licensing contract. SCO filed the suit in March after the automaker failed to respond to a December request from SCO for Unix licensees to re-certify the terms of their contracts.

DaimlerChrysler certified on April 6 that it hasn't used the version of Unix it licensed for seven years. The certification came in the form of a letter from Norman Powell, senior manager of technology services for DaimlerChrysler, to Unix Systems Labs Inc., the entity with which the automaker had signed the original licensing agreement. It was that delayed certification that caused Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Rae Lee Chabot to dismiss nearly all the charges. "We're pleased with the judge's decision and look forward to resolving the one remaining issue," a DaimlerChrysler spokesman said Thursday.

The remaining issue is whether SCO can show it suffered damages as a result of DaimlerChrysler's delayed response. SCO Group hasn't decided whether it will pursue that remaining element of its lawsuit.

Unix licensees agree in their contracts to comply with an annual audit, an SCO spokesman says. SCO exercised this option for the first time in December, sending 3,000 letters to Unix licensees. The company received responses from about half of the recipients, SCO president and CEO Darl McBride said earlier this year. DaimlerChrysler wasn't among the companies that responded within the required 30 days.

This latest ruling is likely to discourage SCO from suing other Unix licensees that failed to certify their use of the operating system. The DaimlerChrysler suit addressed different issues than those in lawsuits SCO has filed against IBM, Novell, and Linux customer AutoZone Inc.

In its suit against AutoZone, SCO charges that the auto-parts retailer's use of Linux infringes upon SCO copyrights to Unix System V code. SCO claims IBM was responsible for putting into Linux Unix source code to which SCO says it owns the rights. And SCO is suing Novell for slander of title, claiming that Novell's claims to own at least a portion of the Unix source code has hurt SCO's ability to pursue its lawsuits and sell intellectual-property licenses.

SCO's case against AutoZone is of greatest relevance to Linux users. Simply put, the auto-parts retailer is being sued for using Linux. On July 12, Federal Judge Robert Jones of U.S. District Court in Nevada granted SCO and AutoZone a 90-day stay in their case. As part of this ruling, SCO has 60 days to perform additional discovery and 30 days to conduct depositions. After that time, SCO has the option of filing a motion for a preliminary injunction against AutoZone's use of Linux.

SCO's most recent filing in the IBM case came July 8, when the plaintiff produced a memorandum in opposition to IBM's motion for summary judgment on one of its counterclaims against SCO. This counterclaim states that IBM's use or sales of Linux and related products "does not infringe, induce the infringement of, or contribute to the infringement" of any SCO copyright. The counterclaim also notes that "some or all of SCO's purported copyrights in Unix are invalid and unenforceable." A hearing date has been set for Aug. 4.

In January, SCO sued Novell, alleging it "slandered" SCO's Unix ownership rights. SCO on July 9 asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah for a number of damages as well as a preliminary and permanent injunction against Novell's claims of still owning certain portions of Unix.

SCO hopes to put aside the courtroom drama next week at SCO Forum 2004 in Las Vegas. At the annual conference, the company will begin shipping SCOoffice Server 4.1, which offers Internet E-mail and collaboration applications for small- and medium-sized companies. In August, the company's Vintela Authentication 2.6 debuts as an application for managing user identities across Unix and Windows environments. The latest version of SCO's OpenServer operating system, code-named Legend, follows during the first quarter of next year as a move to support 32-bit x86-based servers and 64-bit systems from the same operating system.

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