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A legal spat between SCO Group Inc. and IBM over Unix operating system rights could provide an opening for Sun Microsystems Inc., the company’s chief executive said Tuesday. Unlike IBM, which sells a Unix-based operating system called AIX, Sun is in good graces with SCO, licensing intellectual property for its Unix-based Solaris software, chief executive Scott McNealy told reporters in Stockholm. “There’s no question we’re going to go after the AIX base and say Solaris is free and clear, with no legal or intellectual cloud hanging over it,” McNealy said. Lindon, Utah-based SCO has filed suit against IBM, contending the technology giant has violated its license by giving away its intellectual property to the Linux development community. An increasing number of IBM systems use Linux. On Monday, SCO terminated IBM’s license to use certain Unix components in AIX and has sought an injunction against the high-tech giant that would bar IBM from selling AIX or using any of its code in the company’s Linux version. SCO also seeks $3 billion from IBM — triple the amount from its original lawsuit filed in March. SCO’s lawsuit has created wider uncertainty, since users of Linux potentially could also be liable for damages if SCO’s claims are upheld. The dispute centers on IBM’s 1985 agreements with AT&T, which developed Unix in the 1960s. AT&T later sold the Unix rights to Novell Inc. SCO, which was previously best known for its Caldera Linux distribution, acquired certain rights from Novell in 1995. Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun, which makes computers that run corporate networks, sells machines that use Linux, but gets the lion’s share of its revenue from systems that use its own Solaris operating system. McNealy, who was visiting Swedish customers, said open-source vendors typically don’t indemnify customers against claims of intellectual-property infringement, which could cause some to shy away from using Linux until the SCO lawsuit is settled. He said Sun is not vulnerable to any legal claims from SCO because it bought its Unix license outright several years ago. McNealy said Sun has more invested in the open-source software movement than rivals IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co., which he said can always fall back on Microsoft Corp.’s operating system. Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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