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Judge kneecaps Oracle's $1.3bn triumph over SAP

Industrial espionage award 'grossly excessive'

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A federal judge has tossed out a November jury award would have seen SAP pay $1.3 billion to arch-rival Oracle for theft of its intellectual property.

As reported by the AP, Judge Phyllis Hamilton of the US District Court in Oakland, California, called the original award "grossly excessive," and said that the damages should be reduced to $272 million.

If Oracle does not accept this figure, the judge recommends a retrial. And in a statement sent to The Register, Oracle indicated that it's prepared for a retrial.

“There was voluminous evidence regarding the massive scope of the theft, clear involvement of SAP management in the misconduct and the tremendous value of the IP stolen," the statement reads. "We believe the jury got it right and we intend to pursue the full measure of damages that we believe are owed to Oracle."

Oracle sued SAP in 2007, claiming that the German enterprise software giant's TomorrowNow subsidiary illegally downloaded Oracle software and support documents in an effort to pilfer Oracle customers. SAP eventually admitted wrongdoing, and it shut down TomorrowNow.

During closing arguments in an eleven-day trial this past fall, the Larry Ellison Software Machine sought $1.7 billion in damages, while SAP called for an award closer to $400m. The jury settled on $1.3 billion, the largest-ever award in a copyright infringement case.

The trial was, shall we say, enlivened when Larry Ellison announced that Oracle would subpoena ex–SAP CEO Leo Apotheker, who had just been appointed as the new boss at HP. "A few weeks ago, I accused HP's new CEO, Leo Apotheker, of overseeing an industrial espionage scheme centering on the repeated theft of massive amounts of Oracle's software," Ellison said. "HP's Chairman, Ray Lane, immediately came to Mr Apotheker's defense by writing a letter stating, 'Oracle has been litigating this case for years and has never offered any evidence that Mr. Apotheker was involved.'

"Well, that's what we are planning to do during the trial that starts next Monday – unless Mr. Lane and the rest of the HP Board of Directors decide to keep their new CEO far, far away from HP Headquarters until that trial is over."

Oracle did subpoena Apotheker, and apparently, HP did indeed keep him far, far away from HP HQ.

HP appointed Apotheker as its CEO after dumping Ellison's tennis buddy, Mark Hurd. Hurd quickly joined Oracle, and Ellison called the HP board "idiots" for cutting the man loose. He also accused HP chairman Ray Lane of lying about Apotheker's involvement in the TomorrowNow "industrial espionage". ®

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