Although he doesn't come right out and say it, Richard Wilder, who is a partner with law firm Sidley Austin Brown & Wood and is also an intellectual-property counsel for the Association for Competitive Technology has labeled SCO as a "patent terrorist." Wilder's definition of a patent terrorists is a company whose business model is based on patent litigation as a
threat and licensing as a revenue source. "With no interest in selling a
product or winning new customers," says Wilder, "these companies are not bound by the
norms of customer relationship building. They would not think twice
about suing large software customers if it fit into their legal
Wilder's column implies that the various forms of protection from such lawsuits (eg: indemnification programs from vendors like Novell, Sun, HP, and Microsoft) could be worthwhile as long as patent terrorists are on the loose. The existence of patent terrorists, according to Wilder, may mean that the lawsuits filed by SCO against end-users are not an aberration. Personally, I think the risk is way overblown and that SCO is an aberration. The best targets for patent lawsuits are the companies that are allegedly making money by selling someone else's technology (in other words, vendors, not end-users). Negligence or malicious misappropriation of intellectual property on behalf of end-users will be almost impossible to prove and, in that context, the investment in such lawsuits vastly outweighs the potential for return. So, I don't expect to see such suits anytime soon.