Raleigh-based Red Hat Inc. on Monday fired its first salvo against Utah-based SCO Group, which has sued Red Hat Linux partner IBM for copyright violations. Red Hat, the largest distributor of Linux software in the United States, said it has filed a lawsuit in a Delaware court accusing SCO of “unfair and deceptive” actions.

Red Hat also announced the setting up of a $1 million Open Source Now Fund to cover the legal expense of companies developing software under open-source licensing rules.

In addition to its lawsuit, SCO sent letters threatening about 1,500 Linux users with legal action for using the operating system. SCO claims IBM integrated Unix code belonging to SCO into the open-source Linux code.

“We filed this complaint to stop SCO from making unsubstantiated and untrue public statements attacking Red Hat Linux and the integrity of the Open Source software development process,” said Mark Webbink, Red Hat’s general counsel, said in a statement.

“Red Hat is confident that its current and future customers will continue to realize the significant value that our Red Hat Linux platform provides without interruption,” said Webbink.

Also Monday, Red Hat and data storage specialist Network Appliance Inc. announced a partnership to develop network storage solutions that work on Linux.

The two companies pledged to produce Linux storage protocols and collaborative support for customers to maximize Network Appliance product Net App’s storage capabilities in the Red Hat Enterprise Linux environment. The companies also said they plan to jointly market storage consolidation, data protection and technical applications while focusing on database and layered applications areas.

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