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Goofiest lawsuit ever?

© September 2004 Tony Lawrence
Referencing: The Scotts Valley Operation?

Jeff Liebermann is one of my favorite "opinion" posters. He also makes great techy posts, but I particularly like his wit and style when making political commentary.

In this post, Jeff neatly sums up the original SCO/IBM Monterey dispute. GrokLaw calls this "the goofiest lawsuit" ever, because they choose to concentrate only on the contract as written rather than its intent. Jeff rightly suggests that the intent is more important, and certainly no one can imagine that SCO intended to hand over code and get nothing in return.

Obviously, SCO hasn't had very good lawyers in the past. It's also obvious that this specific point - intent - is what they should have stayed focused on, hammering the point day and night. They never should have gone after Linux. I suppose they might have had to bring Linux into it, if for nothing else than to show that IBM damaged them, but that shouldn't have been the focus.

But here we are. The Groklaw crowd is eagerly awaiting SCO's death, and intimations of office closings and cutbacks abound. Perhaps it is all inevitable?

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---September 9, 2004

The intent is obviously what matters most. Even when dealing with million dollar contracts many people never realy even do a thurough reading of the contract. At most it's reviewed by a lawyer or two. Almost all deals are done by word of mouth and a handshake.

But when the "stuff" hits the fan, people run for those contracts faster then you can blink.

How are you going to argue in court that what you put in your contract isn't what you realy wanted, but that you decided on something slightly different? Without relying on the contract it's just IBM's word vs SCO's.

---September 9, 2004

Well, surely (as Jeff says), SCO didn't intend to hand over code and get absolutely nothing?


Who knows? What did the contract say when they signed it? Is ignorance to what you agreed too a defense against what you signed to on paper?

I don't know.

If the contract does say that, and SCO convinces the judge that the contract is null because they forgot to read it, then it just becomes a contest of creditability. Who is the judge going to beleive: IBM or SCO? Which would you beleive?

Is there any burden of proof on the defendants to prove their innocence or is the burden completely on the litagents? I only know low level civil cases and criminal law a little bit, but have no idea on contractional law.

Sometimes businesses do make weird agreements... F- if I know. (look at IBM and MS over the x86 archatecture)


---September 10, 2004

No, the contract doesn't say SCO gets nothing. The contract promises SCO all kinds of things, but also gave IBM the right to pull out under certain conditions. They did so before giving SCO anything back. That's why a judge might say that SCO got screwed. Or might not, of course.


---January 3, 2005

Generally in US contract law, parole evidence of intent is only admissable if the contract is ambiguous,

And unless the contract itself contains some inherent self-contradiction to support some interpretation, the parole evidence can't be used to reverse the meaning of a contract clause or cancel it.

You can bet very hard that lawyers on multi-million contracts work very hard to remove ambiguity or self-contradiction, to the maximum extent possible (but some could slip thru, and I haven't examined this contract).

That aside, it's not entirely clear whether SCO Group (which is not legally the same company as Santa Cruz Operation, Inc.) has standing to pursue Monterey-related causes of action.

And if SCO Group, do overcome this, there is a clause in the Monterey contract which limits damage claims to a maximum of $5 million (so even if SCO were to win, it's possible that they might get $5m or less, having spent $31m).

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