The SCO Group’s lawsuit against Linux distributors IBM, Red Hat, and Novell hit a major snag yesterday as Magistrate Brooke C. Wells of the US District Court in Salt Lake City dismissed 182 of SCO’s 294 claims. The dismissal is part of a 39-page ruling that comes down hard on SCO for continually refusing to provide specific details about which lines of code in SCO’s products were stolen by Linux programmers.
“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,'” Wells wrote in the 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.”
SCO’s reaction to the news was predictably unrevealing. “Our legal team is reviewing the judge’s ruling and will determine our next steps in the near future,” said SCO spokesperson Blake Stowell.
The painfully long and drawn-out saga of the SCO lawsuit started in March 2003, when SCO sued IBM for allegedly “devaluing” their version of the Unix operating system. The lawsuit was extended to include Novell later that year. SCO claimed that both companies had taken code from Unix and put it into Linux. The company was ordered in 2004 to hand over examples of the infringing code in no less than 45 days, but SCO has managed to dither and delay without producing any hard evidence. Clearly, the judges are losing patience.
So will SCO decide to reveal their trump card after all? It seems highly unlikely. In a memo that was leaked last year, SCO’s internal code audit from 2002 found no infringing code in Linux. SCO’s response at the time was to reveal an 1999 e-mail from an outside consultant that allegedly found “troubling similarities” between Linux and Unix code. However, similarities do not equal stolen code. SCO has even backtracked from their initial assessment, stating that the problem may lie in “methods and concepts” rather than stolen lines of code.
SCO may have known for a while that their case was hopeless, and are simply deciding to see the case through in hopes that they may at least recover a small amount of money through technicalities. The company stated in 2004 that they wanted to concentrate more on new products than on lawsuits. This latest news may force them to do just that.
SCO’s stock fell from US$4 to below US$3 on the news, and currently sits at US$3.25.