Novell boosts legal team with litigation expert

The appointment of high-profile patent lawyer Eric Acker by the Suse Linux distributor is seen by some as a sign of legal action to come

Novell has signed up one of America's top patent lawyers.

Eric Acker, head of litigation for the San Diego office of global law firm Morrison & Foerster, has a formidable history, including 45 jury trials as a federal prosecutor.

His firm is a global expert in litigation, concentrating on a number of vertical sectors, including technology. Morrison & Foerster is on the "A" list of elite law firms, according to The American Lawyer magazine. Morrison & Foerster is already assisting Novell in its proceedings against SCO.

Novell, which distributes the Suse Linux software, is also involved in an ongoing, and controversial, partnership with Microsoft. Just three weeks after the partnership agreement was signed in November, the companies fell out with each other.

As part of the deal, Novell paid $40m (£20m) to ensure that Microsoft wouldn't sue its customers for patent infringement, and the two companies then declared a "patent peace".

Referring to Acker's appointment, blogger and legal expert Pamela Jones wrote: "That tells me that they [Novell] are seriously preparing for trial, and they are making sure their heavy guns are in place. This doesn't mean the other lawyers on Novell's team are now shoved aside by any means. Litigation is a team sport."

Microsoft recently claimed that open source violates 235 of its patents, yet it has said it will not sue for now.

UPDATE: Following publication of this article, Novell's head of public relations, Bruce Lowry, contacted Lowry said that Acker will assist with the trial work in the SCO versus Novell case and that "this isn't focused on Microsoft at all".

Lowry wrote: "My concern is that this is all positioned relative to Microsoft, suggesting it reflects concern on our part about the patent issue and our Microsoft agreement. But Acker is going on the Morrison & Foerster team that's litigating our SCO case. So it's completely unrelated. It fans the flames around the Microsoft deal, but has nothing to do with it."


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