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Judge throws out most of SCO's Linux theft claims

Antony Savvas

The judge dealing with SCO’s lawsuit against IBM for the alleged theft of Unix code for use in IBM Linux products, has thrown out three-quarters of SCO’s claims before the case even gets to trial next year.

SCO holds some copyrights for Unix code and is claiming billions of dollars in damages from IBM, but the judge rejected most of SCO’s claims after it failed, despite earlier requests, to provide specific details about which lines of code had been allegedly stolen.

The spiralling legal fees of the case, which was started by SCO in 2003, have helped plunge the company into the red, as have falling software revenues.

The outcome of the action is eagerly awaited by advocates and suppliers of Linux. If SCO wins, leading Linux distributors such as Novell and Red Hat, along with their customers, will be in a weaker position should SCO pursue legal claims against them.

SCO claimed it could not provide detailed information on the “stolen” code because the alleged theft involved “methods and concepts” rather than specific lines of code.

IBM insisted that SCO should still be able to provide the relevant lines of code to demonstrate where the methods and concepts had supposedly been stolen, and the judge in the case agreed.

“SCO’s arguments are akin to SCO telling IBM, ‘Sorry, we are not going to tell you what you did wrong because you already know,’” Judge Brooke Wells wrote in her ruling.

“Given the amount of code that SCO has received in discovery, the court finds it inexcusable that SCO is in essence still not placing all the details on the table. Certainly, if an individual was stopped and accused of shoplifting after walking out of a shop, they would expect to be eventually told what they allegedly stole,” Wells added.

SCO said it would study the ruling. IBM would not comment.


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