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The SAP/Oracle lawsuit lives on

by Scott Priest, Editorial Director

September 2, 2011

Yesterday judge Phyllis Hamilton threw out the decision that SAP owed Oracle $1.3 billion for copyright infringements. 

She gave Oracle two options: except a smaller payment of $272 million, or submit to a new trial. And they have to decide by September 30.

“The verdict grossly exceeded the actual harm to Oracle,” Hamilton wrote. The jury verdict “was contrary to the weight of the evidence, and was grossly excessive,” she said.

My gut reaction to this was that the following would happen: 

  1. Larry Ellison's face turns purple and smoke comes out his ears
  2. Ellison goes on a week-long tirade through the media badmouthing SAP, Leo Apotheker, HP, and anyone who seems associated with any of them
  3. Oracle agrees to a new trial and asks for even more money this time around

Maybe I view Ellison as a cartoon version of himself (which is more fun, and which I think he kind of encourages). But this Business Insider piece by Matt Rosoff notes that Oracle might take a more subtle approach.

[The ruling] is no shock at all -- huge fines from juries in business cases are often overturned on appeal.

Whatever the fine ends up being, Oracle has already gotten a lot of publicity out of the case. Earlier this week, Oracle blasted former SAP head Leo Apotheker, who is now the CEO of HP, for "his involvement in SAP's illegal business practices." Apotheker hid from Oracle's attorneys last November when he took over the HP job, because he didn't want to be subpoenaed in the SAP-Oracle case.

Maybe the publicity generated, plus the quarter-billion reward, will pacify them. But does that really sound like Oracle? Let's look at statements from each company, via

SAP just issued a statement: “We are very gratified with the Court’s decision. We believed the jury’s verdict was wrong and are pleased at the significant reduction in damages. We hope the Court’s action will help drive this matter to a final resolution. We are hopeful that this ruling will move the case toward an appropriate final resolution.”

And here’s a statement from Oracle: “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. We believe the jury got it right and we intend to pursue the full measure of damages that we believe are owed to Oracle.”

That's more like it.

I won't pretend to be a legal expert; who knows how this is going to play out. The one thing we can be sure of is that it's probably not going to be over any time soon. If Oracle wants a new trial, that keeps it in the public consciousness even more. If they accept the lower reward, something tells me they won't do so quietly.

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