More than four years after filing a lawsuit about alleged misuse of the Unix operating system, the SCO Group will get its days in court, beginning today in Salt Lake City.

The defendant will be Novell Inc., which SCO sued in 2004. SCO also had filed a lawsuit over Unix in 2003 against International Business Machines Corp.

SCO's lawsuit against IBM claims the company had violated an agreement by inserting Unix code into Linux, a free "open source" computer operating system distributed by IBM that competes with proprietary Unix.

SCO contended it had bought from Novell certain rights to Unix. SCO sued Novell in early 2004, saying Novell had falsely claimed ownership of the Unix operating system and UnixWare software.

Last August, U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball, in Salt Lake City, ruled that Novell, and not SCO, owned the Unix copyrights. That freed Novell to seek some of the royalties SCO had received from licenses in its so-called "SCOsource" initiative. Microsoft Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc. were among companies that paid SCO for the licenses.

The four-day bench trial that begins today before Kimball will focus on how much money, if any, that Lindon-based SCO will have to pay Novell, because SCO received the royalty payments from some companies that use Linux.

In court documents, Novell says the trial focuses on the proper apportionment of the license revenue — reportedly tens of millions of dollars — that SCO received. Novell says SCO never gave Novell any part of the licensing revenue and "consistently refused to disclose the SCOsource contracts." Novell also says SCO never had the authority to enter into the license agreements in the first place.

SCO, however, says it had the authority to execute the agreements and that it is entitled to most if not all of the SCOsource licensing revenue. Novell, it claims, would be entitled to the payments only if Novell had ratified the agreements, which Novell did not.

SCO filed for bankruptcy protection last September. Stephen Norris & Co. Capital Partners LP had proposed buying $5 million in SCO stock and loaning the company up to $95 million to reorganize but recently said it instead wanted to negotiate to buy SCO's assets.

SCO's lawsuit against IBM is pending.


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