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LinuxWorld attendees say litigation fears waning

With SCO Group's intellectual property suit against IBM finally running out of steam, LinuxWorld attendees say they knew all along that the case was a lost cause.

BOSTON -- The SCO Group Inc.'s intellectual property suit against IBM appears to be on life support this week following some tough words from the judge in the case about a lack of evidence. And attendees of the LinuxWorld Conference & Expo said they really aren't surprised.

Several people attending the conference said they were convinced long ago that SCO -- which charges that IBM violated a contract by taking proprietary Unix trade secrets and building them into open source Linux -- was pursuing a lost cause.

"My opinion is [that SCO is] blowing a lot of smoke and they can't substantiate their case," said Gene V. Ponce, a longtime Linux user and network administrator with CC Communications, a telecommunications company in Charlotte, N.C. "From what I've read, I think they can't produce the code they say is a problem. No one is saying, 'Here it is in black and white.'"

SCO's billion-dollar suit against IBM began in March, 2003. At first, the case prompted confusion and some fear in the Linux user community. The uncertainty centered on the question of who owns Linux, while fears mounted over the possibility that Linux user organizations could be sued for copyright infringement.

Last Wednesday, the federal judge overseeing the case simultaneously delivered SCO a legal victory and a moral defeat.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball refused to grant a request from Big Blue for a partial summary judgment declaring that IBM's Linux activities never infringed on SCO's Unix copyrights. Then, in a harshly worded opinion, the judge said he was tempted to grant the motion given "the vast disparity between SCO's public accusations and its actual evidence."

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"It looks like it is pretty much over," said Dave Rosenberg, LinuxWorld conference manager. "People now seem to be a lot more readily able to talk [about their litigation concerns.]"

Scott Hall, a longtime Linux systems administrator at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, a nonprofit group in Cambridge, Mass., said he had some reservations when the case first surfaced.

"But later on, as the suit progressed, it became fairly obvious that SCO didn't really have the proof" that Linux used proprietary code, making its intellectual property claims nearly impossible to substantiate, Hall said. "My concerns eased up at that point -- I think about four to six months into the hub-bub."

Conference attendee Rod Cater, a former employee of Cisco Systems Inc. and a Linux user since 1993, added that the SCO suit initially led some companies to delay their plans to deploy Linux. But now, with SCO's case in apparent trouble, "the path forward is clearer," Cater said.

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