Tom Petrocelli's take on technology. Tom is the author of the book "Data Protection and Information Lifecycle Management" and a natural technology curmudgeon. This blog represents only my own views and not those of my employer, Enterprise Strategy Group. Frankly, mine are more amusing.

Friday, September 14, 2007

SCO Gets Pinned To the Mat

It looks like we are finally winding down the sad history of SCO. For those who have been living in a cave these past few years. SCO has been locked in a brutal legal battle with some of the software industry's heavyweights such as IBM and Novell. Before you start feeling sorry for them, their wounds are self-inflicted.

SCO was once an early purveyor of UNIX on PCs. That may not seem radical now but in the late 1980's it was completely insane but very cool. Their products were good but the company foundered and sold its assets to what was then Caldera, one of the many Linux companies started in the 1990's. So ended SCO Phase 1.

Caldera then changed its name to SCO and abandoned any pretense of selling software. Instead, they sent nasty letters to Linux customers accusing them of absconding with SCO's intellectual property and threatening legal action. They then went about suing companies involved in Linux, picking on IBM especially.

One problem: They didn't actually own the copyrights to UNIX. Oops! According to court documents, when the original SCO bought the rights to UNIX from Novell (who acquired them from AT&T), they got licenses to distribute UNIX but not the actual copyright for the software. In fact, Novell explicitly kept the copyrights for themselves. When SCO phase 2 realized this, they claimed that they should have had them and it was a misunderstanding on Novell's part. The judge didn't see it that way. Now, you can't sue someone for misusing something that isn't yours to begin with. So SCO had nowhere to go and might actually end up owning Novell money. With that in mind, SCO filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. While not as bad as liquidation, it's not likely they can continue to exist when they own and do practically nothing of value.

Usually this would be sad, but not in this case. This is an example of an the worst sort of patent troll - the highwayman. Unlike many trolls who have legitimate intellectual property and only want a fair deal fro a license, SCO is the sort that lies in wait and then threatens someone with a loaded pistol. Only in this case, there were no bullets in the gun. Once they ran into someone (Novell) who was bigger and unimpressed, they got their clock cleaned. They were shooting blanks, so to speak.

Thus, we shall let's raise a glass in remembrance of SCO phase 1. Too bad what happened to them. Let's laugh at SCO phase 2 and hope that they serve as an object lesson to those who only want to disrupt and suck on the teet of technology, and not create. They will get their just desserts.

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