If ever we needed confirmation that markets, not courtrooms, should decide the technologies we use, witness SCO Group's reborn dream to sue all of UNIX-dom into its wallet. It was a specious lawsuit in 2003 when SCO Group (now Xinuos) first launched its $1 billion broadside against IBM. It's even more farcical today. Sadly, it's not clear that the legal fights between Apple and Samsung, or Oracle and Google, are much better.
First, to SCO Group.
SCO Is Like A Cockroach
You can be forgiven for thinking bankruptcy, unsympathetic judges and the truth would have killed SCO's chances of getting its $1 billion IBM payday. That is, you can be forgiven for thinking that occasionally common sense prevails in the courtroom. But as Groklaw notes, a judge has just granted SCO Group (Xinuos) a new lease on its litigious life. Basically, Xinuos wants a "redo," suggesting that its bankruptcy proceedings unfairly foreclosed its ability to troll.
And let's be clear: this is all about trolling.
It's perhaps fitting that the company that acquired SCO Group's assets, Xinuos, lists four members of management, three of whom are operations and sales-focused (read: keeping costs down while they swing for the litigation fences), and only one is an engineer. That engineer is too embarrassed to show his face:
This is a company set up to sue. In common parlance, it is a troll. Fittingly, it's headquartered in Las Vegas, where the culture of rolling the dice on speculative "investments" pervades.
SCO Group reborn as UnXis renamed to Xinuos should be dead. The lawsuit that tormented the industry for years should have been declared stillborn when first launched. And yet we continue to live with this silly charade.
More Respectable Lawsuits
Not that industry litigation between respectable companies fares much better.
Samsung just got a ban on Apple's importation of old iPhones. Previous to this, Apple won $1 billion from Samsung plus an injunction against Samsung shipping certain phones. The injunction was subsequently wiped out and the damages were trimmed 43%.
It's a tit-for-tat with no end (or victor) in sight.
The same holds true for Oracle's lawsuit against Google over the use of Java in Android. The two parties trade victories and defeats, then appeal, and cross-appeal ad nauseum. The only winners in this and other lawsuits are the attorneys collecting fees.
The Market Rolls On
Despite all of this nonsense, consumers and businesses continue to make purchasing decisions based on quality and value, not lawsuits. Linux has eclipsed UNIX and threatens Windows. Android dominates the mobile landscape. Not one of these inane lawsuits has changed these facts.
So why do credible firms like Apple and Oracle follow the lead of trolls like SCO Group?
Perhaps they hope to delay the inevitable. If Apple can slow Samsung's market share gains, it stands to make even more profits.
Or perhaps they hope to get paid for others' successes. Microsoft makes serious money on Android, despite not contributing anything of value to its development. Oracle may hope to achieve the same in its lawsuit with Google, but part of its strategy may simply be to ensure that others continue to license Java, even if Google refuses, as I've written before.
In some cases, technology firms sue in order to discover competitors' trade secrets in the course of the litigation.
Or maybe, just maybe, they're all suing, as Gizmodo opines, because the patent system is irretrievably broken and so much money is at stake in these emerging markets like mobile.
In the case of Xinuos, however, there's just one reason for its cockroach-like existence: to roll the dice one more time in the hope of getting something for nothing. Let's hope it fails in a way that it finally, truly dies.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.