Understanding the SCO Court Circus – Send in More Clowns!

Posted by: Rea Maor In: Linux and Unix - Friday, August 17th, 2007

Those of you who follow all news pertaining to Linux and Unix have no doubt caught the recent court ruling, which makes it clear that the SCO Group has no rights to Unix. Linux fans are throwing a virtual ticker-tape parade over it.

By now, some folks out there are probably wondering what the big deal is and how did we get here? Here, let’s explain the whole story with a time-line:

  • 1969 – AT&T (yes, a phone company) invents Unix.
  • 1980 – Before AT&T license their own Unix for commercial use, they sell the license to others. It is produced non-commercially by Berkeley as BSD, commercially by Microsoft as Xenix, and becomes the basis for Sun Microsystems’ SunOS.
  • 1989 – A business known as the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) buys a license for Microsoft’s Xenix and begins to sell SCO Unix.
  • 2001 – A completely different company called Caldera Systems buys the Unix-related interests from SCO. SCO changes its name to Tarantella, Inc., and the Caldera Group (who previously marketed Caldera OpenLinux) changes its name to “The SCO Group”.
  • 2003 – The SCO Group begins suing half of the computer industry about its intellectual property stake in Unix; amongst the named litigants are IBM, Novell, and Red Hat.

The literal storm of lawsuits and counter-suits has since played out in a spectacular theater of litigation. The various cases have triggered a virus attack and a Google-bombing, and have made an A-list blogger out of Groklaw, which has covered the case and helped greatly to explain the legal side to the geek audience.

Is it finally over? Maybe. With all of the cheering over SCO losing to Novell, it is worth noting that Microsoft delivered BayStar Capital to fund SCO through the lawsuit effort. The fate of Linux, Microsoft’s chief competitor, rests on the fate of Unix. And SCO has now lost to Novell, which has recently become a Microsoft business partner. To say nothing of the fact that Microsoft started it all with Xenix in the first place.

So, in short, this whole thing has been Microsoft’s battle against Linux from day one – remember, they were looking for the “smoking gun” against Linux. And what, Microsoft has been stating this year that Linux infringes on a bunch of their patents. Does it sound to you like it’s over? That Linux has won? Because it doesn’t to me.


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