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SCO Case: Linux Code Claims Tossed

U.S. judge tosses most of SCO Group Inc. claims over Linux code

(Salt Lake City) The SCO Group Inc. suffered another setback in a lawsuit accusing IBM Corp. of donating proprietary Unix software code to Linux developers.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball on Thursday upheld a magistrate's decision to dismiss 187 of SCO's 294 claims against Big Blue.

SCO acquired rights to Unix, a computer operating system developed in 1969 by AT&T's Bell Labs, through a series of acquisitions and mergers. It earns money by licensing continually improved versions.

The Utah company claims IBM deployed licensed code it was supposed to keep confidential into the freely distributed Linux operating system. SCO is laying claim to code IBM wrote for its version of Unix called AIX, which IBM claims it owns outright.

Kimball indefinitely postponed a trial that had been set for Feb. 26 on Thursday and instead scheduled a series of hearings in March. At those hearings, IBM will ask the judge to throw out what remains of the $5 billion lawsuit SCO filed in 2003.

Magistrate Brooke Wells gutted much of the case in June, ruling SCO had "willfully failed to comply" with court orders to show IBM which of the millions of lines of code in Linux were supposedly misappropriated.

SCO argued that was IBM's job, a stance Wells likened to a security guard who accuses a shopper of stealing merchandise -- and demands the shopper show proof of theft.

The magistrate said that if there was any merit to SCO's claims, they were likely to produce only nominal damages instead of billions of dollars.

Kimball gave Wells' reasoning his full support Thursday, finding that SCO had deliberately failed to show any proof of its claims. In its appeal, SCO continued to insist IBM was in a better position to flag Unix-derived code among the 5.7 million lines of code that make up the kernel or brains of Linux.

SCO claims that its Unix code is what made Linux sturdy and reliable. The Nasdaq trading network uses Unix to process as many as 5,000 stock transactions a second. McDonald's Corp. and other fast-food companies use it to track restaurant orders and sales.

Kimball made it clear no trial will be held before Sept. 17, when another trial is set to get under way for slander-of-title claims SCO filed against another Utah technology company, Novell Inc.

In that case, SCO asserts Novell hurt its business and reputation by publicly and emphatically denying it sold copyrights when it allowed SCO to take over the business of servicing Unix technology.

Kimball has raised doubts about whether any copyrights were transferred in a 2005 ruling that left the matter for a jury to decide.

Novell, which has operations in Provo and Waltham, Massachusetts, and IBM, headquartered in Armonk, New York, are among companies that have begun developing products for use in Linux.

SCO Group did not not return a call Thursday from The Associated Press. John Charlson, an IBM spokesman, said Kimball's decision speaks for itself.

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