SCO threatens to sue Energy labs

The SCO Group, once a leading provider of Unix, has threatened legal action against two of the Energy Department's labs for using the Linux operating system.

In letters to officials at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the National Energy Research Scientific Computing (NERSC) Center, SCO representatives said that some application binary interfaces for which SCO holds the copyright have been improperly made part of Linux.

The Jan. 18 letter from SCO's regional director of intellectual property licensing, Gregory Pettit, to Horst Simon, director of NERSC in Berkeley, Calif., requests a meeting. In all-capital letters, Pettit wrote:

"WE BELIEVE WE CAN PROPOSE SOLUTIONS THAT WILL BE AGREEABLE AND ECONOMICALLY FEASIBLE FOR YOU."

Should Simon not respond to the request, Pettit warned: "WE WILL TURN YOUR NAME OVER TO OUR OUTSIDE COUNSEL FOR CONSIDERATION OF LEGAL ACTION."

The other letter, dated Dec. 19, 2003, and sent to Karen Evans, who was then chief information officer at Lawrence Livermore and is now at the Office of Management and Budget, came from SCO general counsel Ryan Tibbitts. That letter, which begins "Unix Licensee," outlines SCO's position regarding its ownership of the application binary interfaces and warns "we will take appropriate actions to protect our rights."

A NERSC spokesman said the laboratory had turned the letter over to the appropriate legal office, and declined to comment further. A Lawrence Livermore spokeswoman said she was not sure who at the lab had seen the letter, and also declined to comment.

During the past year, SCO has been asserting that portions of the Linux source violate copyrights related to the company's version of Unix. Company officials say everyone who uses Linux owes SCO licensing fees, although almost the entire Linux community has rejected the notion.

The company last year filed a $3 billion lawsuit against IBM Corp., accusing the latter of taking SCO Unix code and building it into Linux. SCO also sent letters to 1,500 companies warning them of legal liabilities related to Linux. IBM countersued SCO, while Hewlett-Packard Development Co. LP and Novell Inc. have offered to indemnify their customers against any Linux-related lawsuits.

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