February 10th, 2016

SCO v. IBM: Judge Rules for IBM in Interferance Claims

Judge grants IBM’s request for summary judgement and orders parties to reach dismissal agreement by February 26.

Two SCO stories in a week? As Yogi Berra would say, it’s 2003 all over again. But this time with a big difference. It’s almost over.

I told you on Monday that Judge David Nuffer with the US District Court in Utah had shot down SCO’s attempts to bring an action for Unfair Competition against IBM because the issue is already covered by another breach of contract claim by SCO. On Tuesday, Judge Nuffer issued a ruling on a pair of interference claims which effectively takes whatever winds were left out of SCO’s sails.

Bankrupt SCO, of course, lost their big $1 billion case against IBM long ago when Novell, in a separate case, proved that it, and not SCO, owned the copyrights that SCO was suing over. But SCO’s been struggling to stay alive, hoping to at least win a few bucks from IBM as compensation for all it went through.

The case ruled upon on Tuesday goes back to the time when SCO famously tried to force enterprise Linux users to pay SCO a license fee, since according to SCO, Linux was nothing more than a stolen version of SCO Unix being dressed up under another name. IBM, already a little ticked off at SCO because they’d sued them for the billion dollars, told SCO “hell no,” or words to that effect, when they heard of the licensing scheme, terminated whatever dealings they had left with the company, and just before slamming the door in a huff on their way out, told SCO that they would encourage their partners to do likewise.

I’ll be a son of a gun if right after that a bunch of big SCO customers, folks like Oracle and Computer Associates, didn’t began scaling back or cancelling their business with SCO. Of course, SCO’s CEO Darl McBride didn’t need to be a genius — good thing in his case — to see the handwriting on the wall that was written in invisible ink. Big bad IBM was interfering with their business and had threatened to take these big companies which had been longtime SCO customers for a one way ride if they ever did business with SCO again. Darl was just as sure that this was illegal interference as he was that the BSD code he found in both Linux and SCO Unix had been stolen by IBM.

Eventually SCO did what they do best. They filed a worthless, but expensive, lawsuit.

Judge Nuffer says in his ruling that he sees it a little differently. He says that as far as he can tell, Oracle and the rest, didn’t start scaling back on their business with SCO because of threats of a one way ride from IBM. “[T]here were many other issues in SCO’s business and relationships, at least some of which predated or were entirely independent of IBM, which could have contributed to SCO’s decline, further interrupting any causal chain between IBM and SCO’s alleged injury,” he wrote in his ruling.

I think this good judge has SCO’s number. Anyway, he basically ruled for a dismissal, but first the parties must agree.

The judge goes on to order SCO and IBM to have a sit down and agree or disagree, by February 26, on whether a dismissal is proper and to assign costs. This may or may not put an end to SCO’s claims, depending on how the meeting between the two goes, and IBM still has three counterclaims against SCO.

It ain’t over ’til it’s over, but the light is shining at the end of the tunnel.

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

8 comments to SCO v. IBM: Judge Rules for IBM in Interferance Claims

  • John Kerr

    A friend of mine described this SCO situation best:
    ¨Any company that has a business plan that is based on suing volunteers, is bound to pick up a few sworn enemies along the way¨ .

    IBM did not have to call any other company to encourage them to dump SCO because everybody with a spot in their hearts for Linux was making the calls for them.

  • Randal

    This seems like it still doesn’t cover IBM’s counts that were outstanding and halted by SCO’s bankruptcy filing. When SCO pushed for its back in court day, it should have opened the doors for IBM’s claims and financial issues. SCO should still have a financial judgement against them.

  • @Randal IBM’s counter claims against SCO are still open and might well go to court if IBM wants. My guess is that in the meeting that the judge has ordered, IBM will agree to drop them if SCO agrees to go away. SCO has no money, and the counter claims were mainly filed to drain money from SCO that it doesn’t have in legal fees anyway.

  • Randal

    I strongly disagree on your thoughts of WHY IBM filed their claims.
    They were already on the ropes when IBM filed, so it wasn’t a money drain.
    Similar to how Newegg never settles with frivolous patent suits, IBM wants a clear determination of victory and their good name to not be besmirched.
    I would expect them to ask for a judgement for them, prior to any dismissal.

  • @Randal Then you disagree with Pamela Jones as well as most experts watching this case. Here’s a quote from The Register’s from another SCO ruling that was issued by the same judeg on Monday:

    “Why would IBM sue a zombie company? To deter its funders from tying it up in court.”

    It’s a little more complicated than that Randal, but that pretty much sums it up.

  • Randal

    I didn’t see that quote from Pamela Jones (long time Groklaw reader).

    That quote doesn’t attribute itself to PJ, but appears to be something its author Simon Sharwood, wrote.
    PJ in past posts, has certainly tried to explain all the intricacies of the why and legalese over the years.
    You made your guess at 9:54, and I gave mine in the last sentence of my 10:03 post, one or neither may be right, but we will have to wait and see.

    I do really miss Groklaw; quite educational.

  • @Randal That’s not a quote from PJ, nor did I say it is, but from an article on The Registar. However, if you go through Groklaw’s work on SCO, you’ll see numerous places where she gave her take on why IBM was filing countersuits against SCO, and it was always to tie SCO up in court and to cost them millions in legal fees. It’s not cheap to fight a suit against the likes of IBM, and that’s a standard practice.

    And I miss Groklaw too. 🙂

  • Randal

    You said I disagree with PJ. I didn’t put words in her mouth, you did. That is A reason, but I don’t speak for her, or claim to. As you said, it is a little more complicated then that, so I don’t believe you have the right to make her summation.
    Your view of it, yes, but you didn’t state it as that.
    I know it isn’t cheap going up against a big company (personal experience). I also know IBM has spent a ton doing it before (against the government no less). Also have had family that worked for IBM.
    My view is different, and I disagreed with you. You have every right to disagree with me, but I don’t think either of us have the legal right to put words in others mouths. That is an important distinction, that I don’t see you clearly making.