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SCO's last arguments in 'Who owns Linux?' case vs. IBM knocked out

Judgements in this case are like buses: none for ages, then two at once

The end of the near-immortal “Who owns Unix?” case looks to be near after a US judge knocked out the two remaining arguments with which the SCO group hoped to attack IBM.

As we reported on Tuesday, Judge David Nuffer of the US District court found against SCO's attempt to work a breach of contract angle in its long-running dispute with IBM, which centres on SCO code that may or may not have made it into Linux and AIX.

A new decision (PDF) and order (PDF) look to The Register's inexpert legal eye to put SCO out of the game.

Both documents consider SCO's argument that IBM interfered with its business in ways that meant buyers saw Linux as an alternative to Unix. In the early noughties, SCO realised that Linux was becoming a thing and also that many Linux users employed SCO code. It therefore decided it would be a fine idea to licence the code, a plan the likes of Oracle and Intel didn't mind.

But IBM didn't like SCO's and told the company as much. After a delay, SCO proceeded, whereupon the judgement says IBM said it would terminate its dealings with SCO and encourage its partners to do the same.

The judgement finds that while IBM went in hard, it did not interfere with SCO's business relationships. The likes of Oracle and Computer Associates may have done less business with SCO, but not at IBM's bidding. SCO's overall strategy and the quality of its products, it's suggested, did it more damage than its rivals.

Judge Nuffer also points out that SCO can't put a dollar figure on its losses, not a good look.

The judge therefore concludes that the claim of interference is “either wholly unsupported by the evidence or is not actionable because it is indirect interference or privileged market competition.”

He therefore tosses out SCO's two claims regarding interference and in the order tells the two parties to sit down and agree on whether the dismissal of the claims is the right thing to do and, if so, to assign costs.

Both parties have been given until February 26th to do that, and have been given a limit of 15 pages of argument to bring to a conference.

There's the potential for that meeting to go badly, and IBM still has three live counterclaims, so the case isn't over. But we may be at the beginning of the end of this ancient saga. ®

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