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The Open Group Turns The Unix Legal Gun On Apple

The Open Group Turns The Unix Legal Gun On Apple

by , 8:00 AM EDT, June 12th, 2003

The whole Unix soap opera got a bit more convoluted yesterday when it was reported that The Open Group (TOG) is suing Apple Computer. According to an article at C|Net, TOG is suing Apple for using the term "Unix" in regards to OS X without a license. Apple has reportedly brushed off the claims, insisting that it has not used Unix as a trademark.

More importantly, the Cupertino, CA company has counter sued TOG to get the Unix trademark invalidated because, the company says, the term has come to be generic in nature. Lindows.com, a maker of Linux-based computers, successfully counter sued Microsoft to have that company's trademark on "Windows" revoked for similar reasons. That case is still in the appeals process.

Apple prominently touts Mac OS X's Unix roots on its Web site, including a dedicated page on the subject. The company has also used the Unix term in some of its advertising. Mac OS X is built on the Mach kernel, which itself stems from work done from FreeBSD, one of the many Unix variants. The source of the lawsuit is not whether or not Mac OS X is Unix-based, but whether or not it would pass the certification process controlled by TOG, and how much Apple should, or shouldn't, be paying for the privilege of using the Unix name.

It should be noted that this case has nothing to do with SCO's ongoing battle against everyone with deep pockets that looks at it funny. The Open Group owns the trademark on the name Unix, while SCO claims to own the Unix source code and intellectual property, which Novell vigorously denies. Unix is indeed tied up in a very tangled web that now includes Apple. From C|Net:

Though initiated nearly 18 months ago, the case has not yet gone to trial. According to a motion filed with the court Tuesday, both companies want to have an exchange of factual documents completed by August, with a trial sought for February.

[...]

The Open Group, also known as X/Open, sued Apple in December 2001 alleging, among other things, that Apple had infringed on its trademark. The case, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., has been winding its way through the courts, with the parties still in the discovery process. Months of mediation meetings ended without a settlement, according to The Open Group.

Since introducing Mac OS X in March 2001, Apple has consistently touted the Unix underpinnings as part of its marketing of the operating system. Apple's Web site, for example, has a page devoted to the Unix base of the OS, including a logolike GIF that shows a metal plate bearing the words "Unix Based."

You can get more information in the full article at C|Net, including information on how much licensing the name would cost Apple (a maximum of US$110,000).

The Mac Observer Spin:

This is a fascinating development, and one that could leave no one happy in the end. Apple is right that Unix has become a generic term that refers to any of several OS variants, but that doesn't mean that the trademark is automatically eligible for invalidation. At the same time, TOG isn't asking for that much, but that's just our opinion. It's too bad the two organizations couldn't come to a settlement, as the court case could become ugly, and will ultimately depend completely on the judge's disposition that hears the case.

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