SCO Group's lawsuits are back on track

Published November 27, 2009 3:24 pm
Copyrights » Novell wants a single judge to also hear IBM case.
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Coming soon to a courtroom near you: The SCO Group's high-profile lawsuit against Novell Inc., or perhaps it'll be SCO versus Novell and IBM.

The cases that represent an assault on the Linux computer operating system are restarting in federal court in Utah after detours into a bankruptcy and an appeals court. At stake: whether SCO can collect millions -- if not billions -- of dollars from IBM and other companies over their marketing or use of Linux. SCO contends that part of Linux is based on the copyrights of the competing Unix operating system that SCO owns.

In its first filing since an appeals court sent the case back for trial in Utah, Novell Inc. is seeking to get the The SCO Group's lawsuit against it heard by the same federal judge overseeing SCO's other suit against IBM.

The SCO Group is opposing Novell's suggestion, and the dispute signals that the case in back on track. In addition, SCO's response reflects the trustee's decision to "aggressively" pursue the lawsuits -- even after the ouster of SCO boss Darl McBride, who started the legal battles.

SCO sued IBM in 2003, contending IBM had used Unix software codes as the basis for changes that permitted Linux to become a competitor among business customers. About a year later, it sued Novell after Novell said it and not SCO owned the Unix copyrights and that, therefore, the SCO suit against IBM had no merit.

Now, Novell has told U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart that the SCO lawsuits against Novell and IBM are similar and they should be assigned to the same judge. Judge Tena Campbell had been assigned the IBM case when Judge Dale Kimball, who was hearing both cases, recused himself after the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a major ruling.

Novell suggests assigning both cases to Campbell or consolidating them.

"Because this case represents many of the same issues as SCO v. IBM, judicial economy and efficiency would be best served by ensuring the same judge decides both cases," Novell said in a court filing.

But Edward Cahn, a former federal judge appointed by the judge to oversee the company while it tries to restructure itself and emerge from bankruptcy, opposes the consolidation. Keeping the cases separate would be a simpler and quicker route to trial, he said in a declaration.

Cahn was named to oversee SCO after Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross said he wanted someone with experience in the litigation of complex matters.

"In my view, [SCO's] claims against Novell and IBM should be pursued aggressively," Cahn told Gross in a Oct. 23 hearing, according to a transcript filed in the Novell case. "... I remain confident that [SCO's] claims against IBM and Novell, especially in light of the 10th Circuit opinion, are meritorious."

Gross replied that he was "particularly pleased to have someone with your experience involved in analyzing the merits of the cases. And I take great solace in the fact that, based your thorough but not as yet final review of the litigation, that you find they do have merit."

Attorneys for SCO and Novell declined further comment on the case.

tharvey@sltrib.com" Target="_BLANK">tharvey@sltrib.com

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