IBM is no longer using its massive patent portfolio to defend itself against The SCO Group in the companies' two year-old legal dispute, according to court documents filed last week in a U.S. District Court.
In documents filed Thursday in Utah, IBM agreed to drop its patent infringement claims in an effort to hasten the outcome of the case. IBM had brought the patent claims against SCO in August 2003 as part of a countersuit against the Lindon, Utah, software vendor.
IBM's patent-infringement charges centered on four SCO products: UnixWare, OpenServer, SCO Manager and Reliant HA. IBM had been seeking to have SCO blocked from developing or selling those products.
Even with the patent claims out of the picture, IBM still has eight counterclaims against SCO, including breach of contract and violation of the GNU General Public License.
In a footnote to the filings, however, IBM said it "continues to believe that SCO infringed on IBM's valid patents," but is withdrawing its patent counterclaims to expedite the resolution of the case.
By dropping the patent claims, IBM is likely to move the slow-moving case toward trial, now scheduled for February 2007.
"It will speed this farce up a bit. SCO was saying that because of the patent counterclaims, they needed discovery, more depositions," said Pamela Jones, editor of the Groklaw.net Web site and a Linux advocate who has been following the case. "SCO has no money to pay damages or royalties due to dropping sales figures, so it doesn't matter to IBM to drop them."
IBM's decision to drop the patent claims appears to have paid off. On Friday, Judge Brooke Wells denied a SCO motion seeking further discovery material from IBM.
SCO spokesman Blake Stowell agreed that the ruling would speed up the case and allow his company to focus on its own claims. "We're happy to see them dropped," he said of the patent claims. "It will allow SCO to better focus its resources on the core merits of our case."
IBM spokesman Mike Darcy declined to comment on the case, saying IBM does not comment on pending litigation.