The National Retail Federation (NRF) has taken up the cudgel on behalf of US retailers being requested to pay licence fees for using the open-source operating system Linux.
SCO Group, the software company that owns the intellectual property rights to the widely used operating system Unix, on which Linux is based, has declared that certain aspects of Linux have infringed those rights and any company using it should pay for the privilege.
Linux, created by Fin Linus Torwalds, was developed as a simple to use, yet versatile and durable language. It has become immensely popular among software programmers and forms the backbone of much of the software used in Internet-based applications.
Unsurprisingly, SCO's decision to enforce this claim has met with vitriolic criticism from companies that use Linux and suppliers that resell the open source software.
In a statement, NRF claimed SCO had threatened 'several major retailers' with legal action for using Linux.
NRF chief information officer Dave Hogan said: 'Based on the information we have seen, the NRF believes the claims by the SCO Group are without merit. Novell Corporation is the last company that can demonstrate legal ownership of Unix system V... In my opinion, it is almost as if SCO's business model is to generate a revenue stream through litigation.'
Novell acquired the Unix source code in 1993, but sold it on to a consortium headed by SCO in 1995. However, in May last year, Novell sent out a statement that this was a sale of assets and did not include copyrights.
SCO asserted that NRF's information was wrong, pointing out that it had filed a slander of title suit against Novell for claiming it had any right to Unix code copyright.
SCO has already taken lawsuits out on two motor industry companies, but denies strongarming any US retailers.
SCO director, corporate communications, Blake Stowell said: 'Seven out of the top 10 retailers in the world are SCO customers, and retail is a market that we know well.
'Just as any retailer will try to stop someone leaving their stores without paying for merchandise, we have a right to protect our intellectual property.
We've taken steps to educate retailers over where SCO's Unix intellectual property has been infringed through the use of Linux.'
Stowell declined to name retailers that SCO had talked with over this issue, claiming that to do so might expose fee payers to outside criticism from opponents to the software house's claims.