It strikes me that the claims asserted by Red Hat and IBM raise substantial questions about whether any patent infringement claims can succeed. According to those pleadings, as well as common knowledge and lore within the open source community, any business process or invention now owned or controlled by SCO was freely distributed to the open source community in such a manner as to void any subsequent claim of infringement. One also wonders about the extent to which some or all of the business processes now owned by SCO are subject to claims of prior art, i.e. that SCO's technology was not invented by SCO or one of its predecessors.
Might there be some economic impact if SCO successfully pursues a patent infringement claim? Yes. The likelihood of the kind of colossal impact suggested by SCO and some of its sympathizers is, in my opinion, remote. However, as I have recommended elsewhere, it is wise for companies that are legitimately concerned about this issue to evaluate the level of their risk/exposure and then develop a rational risk reduction program. If migrating to or expanding the enterprise's use of open source is otherwise justified, recent events need not change that result.
This was first published in August 2003