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Red Hat counters SCO's Linux claims; pledges to launch $100M legal fund

Leading independent open source software provider Red Hat Inc. moved Monday to counter The SCO Group's recent assault on the credibility of Linux. Red Hat announced that it filed a formal complaint against SCO, to 'demonstrate that Red Hat's technologies do not infringe any intellectual property of SCO.'

Unix vendor SCO claims ownership of key elements of the Unix operating system. It has charged computer giant IBM, a major backer of Linux, with what SCO has suggested was misappropriation of Unix elements. SCO also sent formal letters to large corporations warning their IT departments that SCO intellectual property had been placed in peril in some Linux implementations.

In its announcement, which came at a press conference at Linux World in San Francisco, Red Hat said it sought 'to hold SCO accountable for unfair and deceptive actions.'

'We filed this complaint to stop SCO from making unsubstantiated and untrue public statements attacking Red Hat Linux and the integrity of the open-source software development process,' said Mark Webbink, general counsel at Red Hat.

At the same time, Red Hat established a fund to cover legal expenses associated with infringement claims brought against companies developing software under the GPL license. Red Hat pledged $1 million as funding for this initiative.

In March, SCO sued IBM for allegedly trying to ''destroy the economic value of Unix'' via illegal incorporation of Unix elements in Linux. SCO claimed IBM hurt Unix as it sought to build up its new IBM Linux services business.

During a panel discussion at the show, a group of industry analysts disagreed on the effect SCO's legal actions were having on the momentum of Linux itself. IDC analyst Dan Kusnetzky said that he had seen "little impact" other than the degradation of SCO's reputation.

But Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler believed that there was likely to be a small but measurable impact. His research suggests that SCO's legal actions have slowed down Linux deployments.

The week also saw IBM make a counterclaim against SCO in a Utah court. For now, it seems, developers and development managers may be looking over their shoulders while they work on Linux apps.

About the Author

Jack Vaughan is former Editor-at-Large at Application Development Trends magazine.

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