CyberTech Rambler

August 9, 2012

SCO legacy on Linux and why I think the Chapter 11 Trustee wants to keep SCO vs IBM alive

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 6:31 pm

Brian Proffitt has an excellent post on the legacy of SCO, focussing on SCO itself and how it influences Microsoft’s handling of patent assault on Linux.

The strategy that SCO choose to pursue, in my view, is two prongs: One, to sue big fish (IBM) in the hope of intimidating enough small fishes to make the effort worthwhile. [They did sue two baby fishes (DaimlerChrysler and AutoZone), but that is just for show. They sued knowing that no business is at risk since the two migrated away from SCO and is unlikely to be SCO customers in the short and medium terms.] and two, it provide incentive for IBM or other big fish to buy it go away. It is certainly cheaper than the lawsuit in terms of money, effort and the uncertainty the lawsuit created.

From a pure business point of view there is nothing wrong with it. In fact I will give Darl McBride a business prize for dreaming this up and actually pursue it.

Microsoft did learn from SCO strategy: It has been carefully avoiding gigantic fish (Google, IBM) and unlike SCO, is quite successful in catching large fish (HTC, Samsung and other companies just to name a few). To be  fair, Microsoft would had probably pursue the same strategy without learning from SCO, but the whole SCO saga shows Microsoft it must not bite more than it can chew. Again to be fair to SCO, it does not have Microsoft’s clout. If it choose  to go after small  fish the small fish will probably laugh at it. It needs the intimidation effect and the publicity that suing a big fish brings.

As for Linux, it is stronger now than when SCO started the campaign. Groklaw itself is the biggest positive legacy of this saga. A lot of open source people got an education on the law via Groklaw. Developers are more familiar with and is better placed to legal issues. The second biggest advantage is we now have so much scrutiny of the Linux source code it is going to be difficult for others to try to do the same. Take for example the aforementioned Microsoft’s claims that Linux violates it patents, its edge got blunted by the fact that Linux source code had been scrutinized during the SCO saga. In fact so much so that I believe a direct confrontation between Microsoft and Linux will result in a MAD (Mutually-assured Destruction) scenario where nobody wins. The other positive development from the SCO saga is the proof that open source people can be galvernized or organized to put up defenses against attack at open source.

Finally, some people is wondering why the Chapter 11 Trustee wants to keep the SCO vs IBM alive, writing along the line “the mind is willing, but the body is weak” in its petition to  convert the case to Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It is his duty to preserve whatever asset SCO has (or perceived to have). For the IT world we would like to see the lawsuit dies with SCO, especially now we got our pound of  flesh. Taking a look at it from a business perspective says there is nothing in the lawsuit itself that makes it a worthwhile adventure, i.e. SCO does not appear to have a chance in hell of winning it. However, to the correct investors, there may be  value in buying and taking over the lawsuit. One of the incentive is to keep on harassing IBM and Linux. Another is to continue SCO original dream of pursuing the lawsuit in the hope of IBM (or others) buy out the lawsuit. That is why the Trustee list the lawsuit as an asset. Finally, for a business with no other goods to take to the tade show,  anything that resembles something that can be sold will be taken out for the sake of putting something on the  stage.



  1. Having followed SCO closely from before the case began, it was clear to me from the beginning hat SCO was looking to be bought out by IBM fo and adaptability r “nusances value”

    Comment by rob — August 10, 2012 @ 5:28 am | Reply

  2. How much of an ‘asset’ is the suit, really, when IBM has a truckload of counterclaims waiting in the wings? And, unlike TSOG’s (The SCO Group is their new name, I think) allegations, IBM’s charges have (gasp!) actual merit. If investors actually hooked themselves to TSOG lawsuit train, just how isolated would they be from liabilities, if the IBM suit starts ending up with claims against TSOG? This saga ended up legitimizing Linux, to become a decent chunk of anti-FUD. If IBM gets its full day in court to dissect and illustrate just how shady the shake-down scheme was, proprietary software could end up with a very, very black eye; rather than delegitimizing Linux, they may well (again) delegitimize themselves.

    Comment by mcinsand — August 10, 2012 @ 11:19 am | Reply

  3. I don’t see MAD as being the actual result of a patent war…

    Linux doesn’t need patents… and none of the MS patents cover Linux. Any that used to apply would have been owned (or are still owned) by IBM, and thus are prior art to any MS patents. Any remaining MS patents are junk and should not have been issued.

    Comment by jesse — August 10, 2012 @ 12:47 pm | Reply

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