A jury verdict was handed up this week in the lawsuit about ownership in UNIX. The verdict confirmed an issue that was previously decided in Novell’s favor as a motion for summary judgment, overturned on appeal, and remanded for trial. In other words, the jury came up with the same result the judge did before the appeal.
In the dispute, SCO claimed it owned the rights to a version of UNIX under a deal signed in 1995. The jury’s verdict confirmed that the copyrights to UNIX did not transfer to SCO in this transaction.
The verdict is being hailed as a victory for open source because of its effect on another lawsuit — the notorious claims by SCO against IBM filed in the early 2000s. As a consequence of the Novell verdict, SCO’s claims of copyright infringement against IBM are not tenable. However, there remain other claims against IBM, including claims based on breach of contract. Interestingly, the breach of contract claims were the original basis of SCO’s lawsuit, and the copyright claims were added later.
This result is not surprising, and is just another nail in the coffin on the claims of SCO, not to mention the company itself. SCO filed for bankruptcy a few years ago. That, too, is unsurprising — SCO’s lawsuits were the bold tactic of a failing company. However, a few more legal puzzle pieces need to fall into place before the circus is over. The true end will be dismissal of SCO’s case agaisnt IBM, which was stayed pending the disposition of SCO’s bankruptcy, which will in turn depend heavily on the result in the Novell suit.