SCO and the Pursuit of a Clearer IP Vista

As my Linux-Watch colleague Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols is reporting, SCO’s four-and-a-half year crusade to undermine the credibility of the Linux platform is now in its final throes.

I realize that this choice of phrase doesn’t exactly convey supreme confidence that Linux is ready to leave its intellectual property FUD troubles behind, but that’s because the loudest voice in the Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt chorus–Microsoft–is singing louder than ever.

The good news is that SCO appears finally to be finished. As Joe LaSala, Novell’s senior vice president and general counsel put it, “The court’s ruling has cut out the core of SCO’s case and, as a result, eliminates SCO’s threat to the Linux community based upon allegations of copyright infringement of Unix.”

So, as I surmised back in 2003 (before I made the conscious decision to quit playing into SCO’s pump-and-dump stocks scheme by continuing to comment on the case), the reason that SCO refused to lay its cards on the table was that SCO was bluffing all along.

Not only did SCO never own the Unix IP that sat at the heart of its suit, SCO knew that it didn’t own the IP. (a point that slashdot commenter MikePlacid lays out rather well here).

However, I’m not yet ready to hoist a mission accomplished banner in the battle to clear Linux’s name, because the most damaging element of SCO’s attack still hangs over Linux. As long as Microsoft keeps crowing about the 234 Microsoft software patents on which Linux allegedly infringes, it can still be said that unresolved IP issues still dog the Linux platform.

I see three routes toward clearing up this IP cloudiness:

1. Microsoft can announce that companies and developers are free to pursue the technologies that best suit their needs without fear of possible future litigation.

2. Microsoft can identify the particular patents that Linux allegedly infringes, and give the Linux community the opportunity to resolve the issues.

3. Novell, IBM and the rest of the Linux-embracing, patent-wielding IT vendor community can pledge to wage all-out patent war on Microsoft if the firm ever makes good on its shadowy patent suit threats.

Does the recent court decision make you feel more comfortable about the Linux platform, or do you believe that the Penguin’s legal troubles are far from over?