Linux user AutoZone Inc. has gone on the offensive against SCO Group Inc., which is accusing AutoZone in court of illegally using SCO code that it says is buried in the Linux operating system.
AutoZone has asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada to delay court proceedings in its case or at least make SCO amend its complaint. It's likely to be a few months before the court rules on the request.
AutoZone wants SCO to prove that it owns valid and enforceable copyrights in the Unix operating system and that Linux infringes on those copyrights. The Memphis, Tenn.-based auto-parts retailer believes the issues will be resolved in ongoing copyright battles that SCO is fighting with other companies. A ruling in the other cases, AutoZone says in its court filing, "will significantly clarify, if not resolve, SCO's claims against AutoZone."
The challenge might defang one of SCO's principal tactics, "which is to sue enough different kinds of companies so that other folks think they are at risk," says David Byer, a partner in the patent and intellectual-property practice at Boston law firm Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault LLP. "If [the AutoZone] case is put on ice, it could undermine that strategy."
SCO is involved in lawsuits with Linux-software vendor Red Hat, IBM, Novell, and DaimlerChrysler, alleging misuse of Unix operating-system code.
For its part, Red Hat in August struck back at SCO, asking a judge to rule on the legitimacy of SCO's claim. SCO has failed to get that case dismissed.
Sue Robinson, chief judge for the U.S. District Court in Delaware, where Red Hat's case against SCO is being heard, earlier this month issued a stay in the case between Red Hat and SCO until SCO's case against IBM has been decided. That case is scheduled for court starting next April.
AutoZone, with about 3,300 stores, is one of the country's largest providers of auto parts and plans to open 195 stores this year. According to the auto-parts company's court filing, AutoZone moved to Linux after SCO in 2001 told the company it would no longer support the Unix-based OpenServer product it had used.