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AT&T to SCO: Been There, Done That

AT&T to SCO: Been There, Done That

Once upon a time there was a company called AT&T that owned a product called Unix, and AT&T set up a unit called Unix System Labs to try to make a buck off Unix even though Unix wasn't a core competency of AT&T and AT&T could care less about it because the revenue stream it created was so shallow, relatively speaking, that AT&T couldn't even wash its feet in it. However, Unix was popular with a lot of people and a lot of companies and was something of the coming fashion and so Ma Bell felt a certain community responsibility for it. Anyhow, it used a lot of Unix in its vast and sprawling telecommunications operations and needed to protect its interests. One day, in 1992 or 3, shortly after the Unix known as SVR4 was productized, Unix System Labs, which was also called USL, hired an executive VP of sales and marketing named Joel Moss, who hadn't been completely befuddled yet by the Unix culture. Well, after he got there, Joel discovered that Unix or UC Berkeley Unix, which was much the same thing, was given away a lot....for nothing.....by other people. His salesman's soul was aghast. That was stuff he could sell and make money on. He was so aghast that he went and saw USL chief legal counsel Sandy Tannenbaum and asked Sandy if there wasn't something they could do - sue somebody or something -make an example of somebody and stop all this cockamamie free distribution. And then Sandy told Joel the facts of life - and Joel knows this because he still has the notebook with his notes in it from his meeting with Sandy and he reread them for purposes of this story. Sandy said to Joel, "Forget about it, son." See, Sandy wasn't at all sure that he could defend any AT&T-USL infringement claims because AT&T had never policed the Unix IP because it had never valued it and had allowed it to proliferate without complaint until.....well.....if AT&T or USL suddenly started going after people it would look like, well, selective prosecution. So it sounds like Sandy was effectively saying whether he used these words or not that Unix was, well, in the public domain, which is how the SCO Group comes to be fighting Joel Moss' battle for him against the forces of Linux lo these many years later.

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Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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David 09/29/03 11:49:11 AM EDT

It appears that SCO hasn't been reading history, since it's doomed to live (and fail) by it.