The SCO Group (Nasdaq: SCOX ) has a tiger by the tail.
SCO claims that residual bits of the UNIX operating system -- which it owns -- exist in Linux. SCO wants every Linux user to pay up for this alleged use of its intellectual property, and the firm is threatening to sue anyone who doesn't pony up. This week, SCO took its threats to the U.K., France, and Italy.
In response, Linux-heads, who developed the operating system to liberate themselves from exactly this type of corporate bullying, have been calling for the head of SCO CEO Darl McBride on a platter. Corporations like IBM and Novell (Nasdaq: NOVL ) , that build business solutions on Linux, have offered more civilized responses, including robust legal defenses.
But this week, SCO's rivals went on the offensive. Novell released papers to support its claim that it still owns the UNIX code in question. And Novell also began a well-publicized program that offers its Linux customers protection should they be sued by SCO.
Then SCO's three-front war exploded into a lopsided battle royale. A consortium of Linux developers called the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) launched a $10 million legal fund to protect any Linux user from SCO's courtroom hounds. The OSDL's roster includes: Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO ) , Dell (Nasdaq: DELL ) , Ericsson, Fujitsu, Hitachi, HP, IBM, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) , Nokia, Red Hat, Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW ) , Toshiba, and others.
If SCO thought threat-born licensing fees would provide a quick boost to the bottom line, it looks to have miscalculated. As fellow Fool Tom Taulli noted last month, SCO has tried to cast its lawsuits in apocalyptic terms. But with the entire computing world putting its money behind Linux, it appears that, for SCO, the apocalypse is now.
Seth Jayson is currently struggling through a new Linux install on a computer he built from an old wood crate. SCO may serve his papers at FoolishSeth@sethj.com.