Xinuos sues IBM for patent infringement

Lawsuit revisits ancient legal war over Unix code

Linux code on a black background

Software company Xinuos is suing IBM and Red Hat, claiming they stole the Linux source code and pushed its own products out of the market. The move rekindles a legal spat over ownership of the original Unix source.

Xinuos, which is based in the US Virgin Islands, sells server operating systems to commercial customers. The lawsuit, filed in the US Court of the Virgin Islands, accuses IBM and Red Hat of using wrongfully copied software code and engaging in anti-competitive misconduct to corner the market in Unix and Linux server operating systems.

The complaint claims IBM stole Xinuos' intellectual property and misled the public in its SEC statements by saying a third party that owned all of the Unix and UnixWare copyrights had waived all infringement claims against it.

"Thereafter, IBM and Red Hat divided the market for enterprise clients to protect IBM's precious high-end server, software, and services business, they promoted each other's operating system products, and they granted each other special technical access and abilities that were not made generally available and from which Xinuos and others were specifically excluded," the complaint continues. "These bad acts continue to this day."

Unix has a stormy legal history. Novell purchased the rights to the program's source code in 1993, subsequently agreeing to transfer some rights surrounding Unix (including UnixWare, Novell's version of Unix) to the Santa Cruz Operation (SCO). In 2000, Caldera bought UnixWare from SCO, changing its name to the SCO Group two years later.

The SCO Group then sued IBM for infringing on its copyright by including Unix source code in Linux. Novell responded by claiming it was still the legal owner of Linux, sparking a legal response from the SCO Group, which lost its case against Novell in 2007. SCO Group then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while it pursued an ultimately unsuccessful appeal.

A group of equity investors partnered to create UnXis, which purchased SCO Group's server operating system products, OpenServer and UnixWare, in 2011. At the time, the new company stated there was "no place for litigation in our vision or plan." In 2013, it changed its name to Xinuos and released OpenServer X based on FreeBSD while providing a migration path from the former SCO products.

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