The SCO Group is preparing a Linux licensing program which, it claims, will allow users of the open-source operating system to run Linux without fear of litigation.
The program will be announced "within the next month or so", according to SCO spokesman Blake Stowell, but later today the company will announce what he called a "precursor" to this programme in a press conference with SCO chief executive officer Darl McBride and SCO's high-profile attorney David Boies of the firm Boies Schiller & Flexner.
In March, SCO launched a $1bn lawsuit against IBM, accusing the company of breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets. At the heart of SCO's complaint were allegations that IBM attempted to destroy the economic value of Unix to benefit its Linux services business, and that it inappropriately contributed source code to the Linux kernel.
Since then, SCO has warned Linux users that they could be held liable for inappropriately using SCO's intellectual property and boosted its claim for damages against IBM to more than $3bn.
In June the terminated IBM's Unix licence, originally obtained in 1985 from AT&T, but subsequently transferred to SCO.
IBM has denied any wrongdoing in the matter.
Stowell declined to provide specific details of SCO's new licensing programme, saying only, "we're working on some details to try and create some kind of a licensing program for Linux users to be able to run Linux legally".
SCO executives will provide details on "opportunities for Linux customers" at the conference today. Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff admitted he was concerned for Linux users. "Opportunities are rarely good news," he said.
While most Linux customers probably would not participate in a SCO licensing program, Haff predicted some companies might be willing to pay SCO for the security of knowing they would not be sued. "Even if 99% of Linux customers laugh in their face, that there will be sufficient large companies who, for what is presumably going to be a relative drop in the bucket of their IT budgets can, potentially, eliminate a cloud over their heads," Haff said.
Lawyers say that today's press conference will be interesting because it marks David Boies's first public appearance in connection with the case since being hired by SCO in January.
Boies is widely known for his work in a string of high-profile cases including Al Gore's unsuccessful challenge of the 2000 federal election results in Florida, and the US Department of Justice's antitrust suit against Microsoft. His appearance is likely to inject a level of "showmanship" into the case, said Lawrence Rosen, a partner with Rosenlaw & Einschlag, and a general counsel for the Open Source Initiative.
Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service