In refusing to amend the complaint a third time, U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball wrote that allowing yet another revision of the suit - originally filed March 25, 2003 - would "expand this already sizable and complex litigation and would serve only to delay its resolution."
Underscoring his resolve to end further delays, Kimball scheduled a five-week jury trial to begin Feb. 26, 2007. He gave both parties a final deadline of Dec. 22 of this year to "identify with specificity" all allegedly misused intellectual property.
That goes directly to SCO's claim that its proprietary Unix code was illegally incorporated into the freely-distributed Linux operating system. The claim provides the foundation of its suit against IBM, as well as other federal cases involving Novell, AutoZone, DaimlerChrysler and RedHat.
Kimball's decision, filed late Friday as the holiday weekend began, caught SCO unprepared. Spokesman Blake Stowell indicated Tuesday that company lawyers were studying the ruling; whether SCO will appeal was undetermined.
Instead, SCO claimed a victory in Kimball's accompanying order that IBM CEO Samuel J. Palmisano submit to deposition in New York at a date yet to be set - though the judge slashed SCO's demand for a seven-hour question-and-answer session to four hours.
"We look forward to having our claims heard before a jury," Stowell said.
IBM did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but San Jose, Calif.-based technology analyst Rob Enderle believed even an abbreviated deposition of Palmisano might work to SCO's advantage.
"They believe, as I do, that [Palmisano] made a number of very critical decisions early on that were questionable in nature [concerning Unix-Linux development]," Enderle said. "There is no upside for IBM in [Palmisano's] testimony only risk, and if SCO does this right, Sam and IBM could both be badly damaged by this."
Dan Kusnetzky, a vice president with the IDC tech research group, disagreed. "I don't expect dramatic news to be revealed by this deposition. It appears to me that everyone's cards are on the table now," he said.