Jurisdictional issues are very important. In order for a court to entertain a lawsuit, such as the Red Hat v SCO lawsuit, it must have the legal authority (jurisdiction) to do so. (Jurisdiction: "juris, genitive of jus law + dictio act of saying" Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law via FindLaw) Jurisdiction is "the power, right, or authority [of a court] to interpret, apply, and declare the law (as by rendering a decision)". (Ibid.)
There must be an issue that involves some federal law, a federal treaty, or the United States Constitution in order for a federal court to have jurisdiction over a civil matter such as the Red Hat v SCO lawsuit (original jurisdiction). In certain circumstances, a federal court may also take jurisdiction over claims made under state law rather than federal law (pendent jurisdiction).
In Red Hat's requests for declaratory judgment against SCO, Red Hat claims the United States District Court for the District of Delaware, in which the Red Hat v SCO Complaint was filed, has jurisdiction under the United States Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201. However, the Declaratory Judgment Act requires that there must be an actual controversy between the parties in order for a federal court to have declaratory-judgment, subject-matter jurisdiction over a matter such as the Red Hat v SCO lawsuit.
28 U.S.C. Sec. 2201 - Creation of remedy
(a) In a case of actual controversy within its jurisdiction, . . . any court of the United States, upon the filing of an appropriate pleading, may declare the rights and other legal relations of any interested party seeking such declaration, whether or not further relief is or could be sought. Any such declaration shall have the force and effect of a final judgment or decree and shall be reviewable as such. (Emphasis added. 28 U.S.C. 2201)
In reviewing SCO's Motion to Dismiss, the District Court will have to determine if the allegations of Red Hat's Complaint are sufficient to show an actual controversy between Red Hat and SCO.
Forum and Judicial Economy Issues
SCO also raises some issues regarding the already pending SCO v IBM lawsuit, which it filed in March 2003.
[E]ven if Red Hat were able to successfully establish the jurisdictional requirements for declaratory relief, this Court should decline to exercise jurisdiction because there is no practical reason to do so. The infringement and misappropriation issues Red Hat seeks to adjudicate in this case are currently before U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball in the SCO v. IBM Case pending in Utah Federal District Court. (SCO Group, Inc.'s Opening Brief in Support of its Motion to Dismiss, Red Hat v SCO, #03-372, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, 15 September 2003. Download link on page 3.)
Simply put, this notion of judicial economy is that it does not make sense to have two different District Courts in different regions hear cases that involve the same issues -- unnecessary redundancy. Here, the two different courts are the Utah U.S. District Court and the Delaware U.S. District Court. The common issues are SCO's claims IBM has caused SCO-owned code to be placed in the GNU/Linux operating system and there is SCO-owned and copyrighted code in the GNU/Linux OS and in Red Hat Linux.
Tort and Damages Issues
Counts I and II of Red Hat's Complaint deal with Declaratory Judgment Act matters. The remaining counts, Counts III through VII involve the false advertising, deceptive trade practices, unfair competition, interference with business, and trade libel issues.
SCO's Opening Brief In Support Of Its Motion To Dismiss asks the U.S. District Court for Delaware to find that Counts III through VII are barred by First Amendment rights to free speech and because SCO's conduct does not violate the Lanham Act.
Red Hat's claims under Counts III through VII seeking tort damages and injunctive relief based upon SCO's so-called "campaign" of filing suit against IBM and publicly discussing that case and other potential legal liabilities are barred by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and by the common law doctrine of litigation immunity. The nature of SCO's statements complained of by Red Hat do not give rise to liability under the Lanham Act or the associated state law claims. Further, any governmental interest served under the Lanham Act is heavily outweighed by fundamental governmental interests in protecting copyright interests, ensuring full and free access to courts, providing litigation immunity, promoting judicial economy and fairness in litigation, and safeguarding freedom of speech and the press. Therefore, Counts III through VII must be dismissed with prejudice. (SCO Group, Inc.'s Opening Brief in Support of its Motion to Dismiss, Red Hat v SCO, #03-372, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, 15 September 2003. Download link on page 3.)
Analysis and Discussion
We discussed the Motion to Dismiss issues with Thomas C. Carey via e-mail. He is a programmer turned lawyer and now is a partner at Bromberg and Sunstein. He chairs the firm's Business Practice Group. His law practice includes licensing and transferring software, technology and other knowledge-based content, and lots more.
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