Ex-SCO CEO: Novell elusive about IBM link

McBride testifies he pressed for collusion admission over copyrights.

By Tom Harvey
The Salt Lake Tribune

March 15 2010

The former CEO of The SCO Group testified Monday that his Novell counterpart hesitated when asked in a phone call if Novell had collaborated with IBM in trying to sink SCO's claims to the copyrights of the Unix computer operating system.

Darl McBride made the assertion in a federal court trial where The SCO Group of Lindon and Novell are battling over the Unix copyrights that both claim to own. The dispute had its roots in 2003 when SCO sued IBM over the alleged use of the Unix software code that made the Linux operating system a successful competitor and cost SCO millions of dollars.

SCO, attempting to reorganize itself in bankruptcy court, maintains that IBM and Novell worked together to call into doubt SCO's claims to Unix because both were making Linux a part of their businesses. SCO attorney Stuart Singer said in court last week that IBM had provided Novell $50 million to buy a Linux-based business.

McBride testified he received a letter in 2003 from then-Novell CEO Jack Messman asserting that Novell retained ownership of Unix copyrights as part of a 1995 deal. SCO then faxed a copy of an amendment to the original sales agreement that it said proved SCO's claims to the copyrights.

McBride said Messman told him in a subsequent phone call, "Darl, you got the copyrights." McBride said he then asked Messman to disclose whether IBM was colluding with Novell to cast doubt on SCO's claims.

"He was evasive," McBride said, testifying he pressed Messman, who replied, "I don't want to talk about this topic anymore until I have an attorney with me."

McBride also said Novell later retracted its press release concerning copyright ownership, only to reassert that claim days later.

McBride's testimony is to continue today, when Novell's attorneys will have a chance to challenge his assertions.

Messman, in a videotaped session seen last week by the jury, said he believed Novell had retained the copyrights to Unix when it sold the system in 1995. But Robert Frankenberg, who was Novell CEO at the time of the transaction, testified in court that his orders to negotiators and attorneys were to sell the entire Unix business, including the copyrights.

Novell's ownership claims were timed to coincide with SCO releases of record earnings, which meant that instead of seeing its stock price jump, SCO's share value declined, said McBride, who was fired as CEO in October by the bankruptcy trustee.

Copyright 2010