After years of litigation, the District Court of Utah late yesterday ruled that Novell, not the SCO Group, owns the copyrights to the Unix operating system.

In a statement, Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian said, “This decision is good news for Novell, for Linux and for the open-source community. We have long contended that this effort against Linux has no foundation, and we are pleased that the jury, in a unanimous decision, agrees.”

SCO recently received US$2 million in funding, and said part of that would be used to continue its litigation against Novell and IBM, which also distributes Linux. It is unclear if those funds will now be used for an appeal.

The long-running case began in 2003 when the company sued IBM, claiming that Linux is an unauthorized subset of Unix, and that SCO had true ownership of Unix and UnixWare Technology after Novell’s sale of part of its Unix business to SCO’s predecessor, the Santa Cruz Organization, in 1995. Novell joined the case after the IBM suit, claiming it did not sell the intellectual property rights to the Santa Cruz Organization. Novell began registering copyrights to Unix after that, and SCO sued Novell in 2004.

Despite SCO’s seven-year claim that it had hard evidence to support its accusations, the argument was laid to rest yesterday when jurors unanimously voted for Novell. The jurors were instructed to reach a decision based on the burden of proof and to only rule in SCO’s favor if there was clear and convincing evidence supporting its case against Novell.

“This decision is good news for Novell, for Linux and for the open-source community,” said a Novell statement.

SD Times is awaiting comment from SCO.