SCO fined in Germany over Linux claims

A court has ordered the company's German arm to pay €10,000, for contravening a 2003 ruling barring claims that Linux includes intellectual property from Unix

SCO Group has been ordered to pay a €10,000 (£7,900) fine in Germany for making claims that Linux includes intellectual property from Unix.

SCO has repeatedly claimed that Linux is an unlawful derivative of Unix, but had agreed not to make this claim anymore in Germany, following a lawsuit in 2003.

The current case found that the claims were still present in US material available on the site of SCO Group GmbH, the group's German subsidiary. As well as paying the fine, SCO will have to monitor its German presence.

"Patent-threat scare tactics against free software are frequently used, but have never been backed up," said Mark Taylor, president of the Open Source Consortium, a UK open-source advocacy group. "Germany's approach is the sensible and traditional 'innocent until proven guilty' and puts the onus on the mud-slingers — removing the payoff that proprietary vendors get from this anti-FOSS [free and open-source software] tactic. Neither the 'never-ending SCO story' nor the notorious and pointless 'patent deals' could continue if other legal systems took the same common-sense approach."

The ruling was made in a Munich district court this week, in response to a complaint from services company Thinking Objects GmbH, one of the companies that obtained the injunction in the 2003 lawsuit. The court found that the material's US origin was no defence, and SCO's German subsidiary must check all material coming from its parent.

Open-source legal website Groklaw was not convinced SCO would be able to prove its patent claims in Germany.

"SCO can't say in Germany that Linux violates SCO's [intellectual property] or that end users could be liable for violations of SCO's intellectual property or that Linux is an unauthorised derivative of Unix — unless it can prove it," said technology lawyer and commentator Pamela Jones on Groklaw. "Good luck with that. SCO hasn't been successful proving that anywhere, so it can't say that in Germany."

SCO's Germany subsidiary has three weeks to make an appeal.