updated 2/10/2005 8:12:57 PM ET 2005-02-11T01:12:57

A federal judge has rejected efforts by International Business Machines Corp. to dismiss a major portion of a lawsuit brought by SCO Group accusing the computer giant of copyright infringement.

London-based SCO is seeking at least $5 billion from IBM, accusing the company of illegally inserting its proprietary Unix code into the freely distributed Linux operating system.

IBM asked U.S. District Judge Dale A. Kimball in September to dismiss a large chunk of the suit and declare that its use of Linux had not infringed on SCO's purported UNIX copyrights. In their motion, IBM's attorneys said SCO officials have repeatedly claimed to be in possession of significant evidence of Linux-related copyright infringement, but has yet to conclusively prove those claims in court.

In his ruling Wednesday, Kimball cited several Linux-related statements presented to the court in 2003 in which senior SCO officials complained there were many instances where the company's "proprietary software has simply been copied and pasted."

But Kimball seemed to agree with IBM's attorneys who argued that none of that proof has held up, saying in his ruling that it was "astonishing" that SCO had "not offered any competent evidence" to support its claims.

Kimball, however, also called IBM's motion to dismiss the lawsuit premature and that simply comparing the core of Linux code to that of Unix, as suggested by IBM, wouldn't be enough to settle the claims.

Kimball said IBM could renew its dismissal bid after evidence gathering is finished.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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