Novell Inc has prevailed in its dispute with the software company SCO Group over copyright ownership to the code behind Linux software.

Judge Dale Kimball of the US District Court for Utah held that Novell rather than SCO owns copyrights in the UNIX computer operating system. This ruling also affects a case bought by SCO against IBM for royalties for use of Linux.

The background of the dispute was SCO’s 1995 acquisition from Novell of certain rights in the UNIX operating system, upon which Linux is based. SCO sued Novell for slander of title for publicly disputing ownership of copyrights to UNIX and for stating that SCO had no right to royalties from IBM for its use of Linux.

However, the judge ruled that:“The bill of sale is clear: all copyrights were excluded from the transfer.” Therefore, “Novell is the owner of the Unix and UnixWare copyrights”. Moreover, Novell is “entitled, at its sole discretion, to direct SCO to waive” its claim against IBM.

Following the decision, Novell commented that:

“We are extremely pleased with the outcome […] The court’s ruling has cut out the core of SCO’s case and, as a result, eliminates SCO’s threat to the Linux community based upon allegations of copyright infringement of UNIX.”

Indeed, the ruling limits SCO’s ability to sue IBM or Linux users for copyright infringement, thus protecting use of the open-source operating system. It will be interesting to see how the computer industry reacts to this clarification of the situation concerning the availability of the Linux open-source software.

For background, see “Court allows SCO to add copyright infringement charge to Novell suit”, “Proprietary software v open source - let the battle (re-)commence” and “Judge refuses to dismiss case against IBM but criticizes SCO's lack of evidence”.

This article first appeared in World Copyright Law Report. For further information please go to