Chuck Talk has an interview with Graham Bird, Vice President of Marketing for The Open Group. He asks if it is accurate to say that SCO "owns the UNIX operating system". He emphatically says no:
"They don't own UNIX; they have only the same rights to use the trademark as any other certified product. They are incorrect in asserting UNIX ownership. They do not own UNIX or the UNIXWare trademarks, they do own the source code to the UNIX implementation that they purchased from Novell and the UNIXWare product, but they do not own UNIX. We will continue to stand up and correct such misstatements when we find them. . . ."
Why, then, don't they sue SCO? The interview indicates they just might. Bird was asked if The Open Group had thought of teaming up with OSDL:
"Q: Has The Open Group considered working or partnering with the Open Source Now or OSDL defense funds to defend its trademark and specification from the SCO Group's claims to own UNIX?
"Graham Bird: To be honest, we haven't considered that before, but it is an intriguing idea. We may have to give that some thought."
The most interesting part of the interview is the history of the specification.
Chuck Talk: Do the products that bear the UNIX trademark belong to anyone in particular, in other words, is there one owner of all of the UNIX products?
Graham Bird: Nope, absolutely not. The UNIX certified products are not from a single implementation. Perhaps it would be best if I gave your readers a little background information to dust off a little history. Almost 10 years ago, Novell was the successor in interest to the AT&T/USL UNIX Business. They were interested in getting out of the UNIX business at the time, but there was a lot of industry discomfort about the idea of any one company "owning" UNIX.
The decision that was made was that Novell would sell SCO (the Santa Cruz Operation), UNIXWare and the source code to that product, but that the UNIX trademark and the UNIX specification were passed to X/Open (that subsequently became The Open Group). In the early days, in order for a product to be certified as a UNIX product, it had to have AT&T source code in the product. However the "SPEC 1170" initiative changed all of that.
What happened was that in order to develop a single specification (this became UNIX 95), a vendor group analyzed the applications in use and came up with a set of 1170 common APIs across all of the UNIX and UNIX like distributions. This "SPEC 1170" changed the rules of the road somewhat, because at that point, the UNIX 95 spec broke the link between requiring AT&T Source code to be included in the UNIX products in order to be certified. At that point, with that link broken, you began to see the expansion of the UNIX certified product lines, with IBM developing their mainframe UNIX, DEC's OpenVMS, and others becoming certified. These products didn't come from the AT&T source code base. That is when you saw real change, actually huge engineering for everybody in the UNIX business in order to make their products comply with the new specification."