SuSE: SCO's anti-Linux attacks are 'curious'

Update: SuSE says it will continue supporting the UnitedLinux code base despite SCO's attacks on Linux's legal legitimacy, as Red Hat and MandrakeSoft say they are not yet concerned
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor on

SuSE Linux has said it plans to continue honouring its commitments to Linux group UnitedLinux, despite allegations by SCO Group -- also a UnitedLinux founding member -- that Linux contains unauthorised intellectual property.

In the mean time, Linux vendors MandrakeSoft and Red Hat said they had not been contacted about SCO's allegations and did not see them affecting business.

SuSE's response came shortly after SCO on Wednesday announced it would stop selling its own Linux product, based on UnitedLinux's software, because of intellectual property concerns. SCO, a financially struggling company that claims its Unix intellectual property has been illegally incorporated into Linux, also said it had sent letters to about 1,500 of the world's largest corporations warning they could be liable for using Linux.

Thus far, SCO's legal attacks have been limited to IBM, a SCO licensee, which it claims used SCO's trade secrets illegally to improve Linux. Wednesday's move stands to widen the assault to include Linux users and Linux vendors, including SCO's own UnitedLinux partners.

SuSE could be the particular focus of SCO's interest where it comes to UnitedLinux, because SuSE's Enterprise Server software forms the basis for the UnitedLinux code, which is sold by members under various brand names. Other UnitedLinux members include Conectiva and Turbolinux.

Joe Eckert, vice president of corporate communications at Germany-based SuSE, expressed surprise at SCO's attacks. "SCO's actions are... indeed curious. We are not aware, nor has SCO made any specific attempt to make us aware, of any unauthorised code in any SuSE Linux product," Eckert said in a statement. "As a matter of policy, we have diligent processes for ensuring that appropriate licensing arrangements (open source or otherwise) are in place for all code used in our products."

He said that SuSE had asked SCO for clarification, but said SCO had declined to comment.

However, he said, SuSE was not planning to make any changes to its support of the UnitedLinux code base. "The UnitedLinux code base -- jointly designed and developed by SuSE Linux, Turbolinux, Conectiva and SCO -- will continue to be supported unconditionally by SuSE Linux," Eckert stated. "We will honour all UnitedLinux commitments to our customers and partners, regardless of any actions that SCO may take or even allegations they may make."

Other Linux vendors say they are perplexed by SCO's allegations, which industry analysts have said are designed mainly to encourage another company to quickly acquire SCO.

Red Hat, by far the largest Linux vendor, said it had not had any conversations with SCO about the allegations and did not know what code was being questioned. The company said it has a "serious" programme of ensuring it does not violate "valid" copyright claims.

Red Hat also indicated that it did not yet see SCO's tactics having an effect on business. "We've seen no indication from enterprise customers that these statements from SCO have been a deterrent from viewing Red Hat as a trusted provider of Linux solutions," the company said in a statement on Thursday.

Gael Duval, co-founder of MandrakeSoft, which develops Mandrake Linux, said that it was impossible to come to any conclusions in the absence of any details about what Linux code might be infringing SCO's rights. "SCO has been unable so far to unveil the exact parts of the incriminated code, and it doesn't seem they will do publicly, which could mean that they don't feel very confident about their claims," he said. "(There is) nothing concrete yet."

SCO has not given specifics on which code within Linux might infringe on SCO intellectual property, other than to say that lines of "significant copyrighted and trade secret code" had been copied into the Linux kernel and other parts of the operating system.

Chris Sontag, head of the effort to derive more revenue from SCO's intellectual property, said SCO will disclose specifics in court and to credible third parties who sign nondisclosure agreements. He said observers could be shown the evidence in "a couple of weeks". CNET News.com's Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.

For all your GNU/Linux and open source news, from the latest kernel releases to the newest distributions, see ZDNet UK's Linux News Section.

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