NEW YORK—Hill & Knowlton has created a new offering to provide integrated litigation services and crisis communications support for companies that may be subject to the increasing number of lawsuits being filed by SCO Group against enterprise users of the open-source Linux operating system.
In May, SCO Group sent letters to 1,500 companies worldwide, warning them that use of Linux might interfere with SCO’s Unix intellectual property. Linux is an open source software product, which means it has been developed over time by multiple users, each of whom has access to the code and can make improvements.
But SCO claims its holds the rights to key elements of the 30-year-old Unix operating system from which Linux was inspired, and claims parts of it have been incorporated in Linux. The company has already filed suit against IBM, Novell, AutoZone, and DaimlerChrysler.
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” said Harlan Loeb, director of Hill & Knowlton’s U.S. litigation services specialty. “Being prepared before a crisis or litigation hits can help protect corporate reputations, accelerate potential settlements, and reduce overall litigation costs.
“Hill & Knowlton has worked with more than 50 Fortune 500 clients and their counsel on sensitive litigation matters to quickly and cost-effectively develop communications strategies that cogently articulate companies’ legal positions. By partnering with PR and legal counsel, we help our clients prepare, defend and counterattack against litigation in both the court of law and the court of public opinion.”
According to recent published reports, Linux adoption continues to grow in corporate IT environments. The Linux server market has been forecast to reach $6.3 billion by 2008, and nearly 40 percent of enterprise CIOs have already implemented or are actively testing Linux.
“Irrespective of the claims asserted by SCO, the issues they allege against enterprise Linux customers unwittingly draw those users into the public spotlight,” said Joe Paluska, director of Hill & Knowlton’s U.S. technology practice. “We are offering enterprise Linux users strategic communications counsel before that spotlight turns on them next. We approach this issue with a unique blend of legal, analyst and media experts.”
Hill & Knowlton’s team is led by Loeb in Chicago, Paluska in San Francisco, and Joshua Reynolds, U.S. director of analyst relations, also in San Francisco.