IBM has agreed to drop its patent infringement claims against SCO to speed up the outcome of their ongoing legal dispute.

The claims, from August 2003, came in a countersuit to SCO's lawsuit that alleged IBM has infringed its heavily disputed patents over the open-source operating system, Linux.

IBM claimed that four SCO products - UnixWare, OpenServer, SCO Manager and Reliant HA - infringed its patents and asked for SCO to be blocked from developing or selling them.

Even with these patent claims out of the picture, IBM still has eight counterclaims against SCO, including breach of contract and violation of the GNU General Public Licence.

In a footnote to the filings, however, IBM said it "continues to believe that SCO infringed on IBM's valid patents", but is withdrawing its patent counterclaims to expedite the resolution of the case.

By dropping the patent claims, IBM is likely to move the slow-moving case toward trial, now scheduled for February 2007.

One observer was pleased with the news. "It will speed this farce up a bit. SCO was saying that because of the patent counterclaims, they needed discovery, more depositions," said Pamela Jones, editor of the website. "SCO has no money to pay damages or royalties due to dropping sales figures, so it doesn't matter to IBM to drop them."

IBM's decision to drop the patent claims appears to have paid off. On Friday, Judge Brooke Wells denied a SCO motion seeking further discovery material from IBM.

SCO spokesman Blake Stowell agreed that the ruling would speed up the case and allow his company to focus on its own claims. "We're happy to see them dropped," he said of the patent claims. "It will allow SCO to better focus its resources on the core merits of our case."