SCO applies for 'Unix System Laboratories' trademark

The SCO Group is trying to revive the name of the AT&T subsidiary that once owned the rights to the Unix operating system and, in...

The SCO Group is trying to revive the name of the AT&T subsidiary that once owned the rights to the Unix operating system and, in the process, stirring up controversy with the industry group that claims ownership of the Unix trademark.

SCO has confirmed it has applied for a US trademark on the term "Unix System Laboratories". SCO filed an application to register the trademark on 21 June, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office website.

"The company has filed to receive that trademark because we believe there's some value in that. How we plan to use that trademark in the future has yet to be determined," said Blake Stowell, an SCO spokesman.

If registered, the name could be used for a variety of purposes, Stowell said. "It could be used for our company; it could be used for an initiative within our company; it could be used in any number of areas," he said.

SCO chief executive officer Darl McBride is expected to reveal details about how SCO intends to use the trademark at the company's annual SCO Forum user conference in Las Vegas next week.

But whether SCO will be granted the Unix System Laboratories trademark is in doubt.

The Open Group, a San Francisco consortium that owns the trademark to the term Unix, claims that registering the name Unix System Laboratories would not only conflict with the Open Group's Unix trademark but would also violate a licence between SCO and the Open Group, which allows SCO to use the term Unix.

 "We'll be taking the issue up with the Patent and Trademark Office and objecting strenuously, and we'll be taking the issue up with SCO because it's a breach of the licence they already hold with us," said Graham Bird, vice-president of marketing with the Open Group.

The Open Group has already had a number of discussions with SCO over the software supplier's claim that it owns Unix, Bird said.

"They claim, for example, that they own Unix. They do not," he said.

Unix System Laboratories was once a subsidiary of AT&T that owned both the Unix trademark and the Unix System V source code. The company was dissolved when it was acquired by Novell in 1993.

Novell eventually sold some of the Unix System Laboratories assets, which were acquired by The SCO Group in 2000. As part of its Unix divestiture, Novell transferred the Unix copyright to the Open Group.

Although the question of whether SCO actually acquired the Unix copyright is now the subject of a lawsuit between SCO and Novell,  the NetWare supplier apparently holds no claim on the Unix System Laboratories trademark.

"We don't claim ownership of that trademark," said Novell spokesman Bruce Lowry.

Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service

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