SCO Group: Would You Please Drop Dead Already?

Another shoe has dropped for the SCO Group -- this makes about a dozen -- but when will this outfit go away?

First the SCO Group sues IBM for billions in a case related to alleged intellectual property infringement, and then it starts threatening Linux and Linux users. Then, after Novell says that the SCO Group does not have the rights to Unix that it needs to sue and threaten, it sues Novell. Since then it has been mostly downhill for the SCO Group.

After enriching many a law firm, part of the case finally made it in front of a judge. That judge ruled that the SCO Group had no clothes, nor did it have the rights to Unix.

The SCO Group did not die. Instead, it appealed and got a reprieve, and a jury trial. The jury agreed with the first judge about the lack of coverage but the SCO Group still did not die and appealed again. Now the judge hearing the appeal has ruled that the jury (and the first judge) got it right and that the SCO Group has nothing to hide behind. Will The SCO Group take the hint this time and die already? Stay tuned.

The whole saga has been covered with remarkable tenacity, accuracy and clarity by Pamela Jones at Groklaw, including the latest development. Do read all of this entry if you have the time, it will tell you a lot about the story, and, in addition, about the lengths that some people will go to earn an undeserved buck.

The SCO story was never about obtaining just rewards for hard work or about protecting SCO's intellectual property. The SCO Group wanted billions of dollars from IBM for work that, assuming all of the SCO Group's claims had been accurate, SCO only spent a few million dollars developing and were only able to realize a few million from its own products. A thousand to one or so return on investment is, by any rational, a bit more than a just reward.

If it had been about protecting intellectual property the SCO Group would have told the world what property had been stolen and the open source community would have quickly stopped using it (assuming there ever was any "it" to stop using).

It is quite clear that the leaders of the SCO Group had developed a business strategy of trying to get the courts to help extract "exorbitant fees" (borrowing a term that four Supreme Court Justices used in a landmark eBay case). SCO's leaders were willing, maybe even eager, to destroy the open source culture to enrich themselves.

You might think from the above diatribe that I am against all enforcement of intellectual property, but you would be wrong. I do find it a distortion of justice that a company can spend hundreds of millions of dollars developing a game-changing product and have it copied a few months later by other companies who have nothing original to offer society. I also find it counter-productive for inventors to not be reasonably rewarded for actual inventions.

The SCO Group showed what can go wrong when some types of people use intellectual property rights (IPR) as a weapon in a lawyer-rich (or is that rich-lawyer) world. But the excesses of the SCO Group must not obscure the fact that there are wronged intellectual property holders who should be made right.

Disclaimer: Harvard has IPR (including IPR on a mouse, so is likely to have an interest in this topic. But I do not speak for the university, nor do I know what it would say if it spoke for itself.

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