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Oracle Loses One To HP In Itanium Saga

HP wins on one ruling, but a judge denies both companies' requests to seal documents tied to the ongoing HP-Oracle Itanium case.

A judge for the Superior Court of the State of California, Santa Clara County, handed Hewlett-Packard a win on one score in the ongoing Itanium legal battle on Monday, ruling that HP did not "deprive Oracle of the opportunity to negotiate" in a settlement over its hiring of former HP executive Mark Hurd.

Oracle's claim was tied to the HP-Oracle Itanium flap, which erupted in March, 2011 when Oracle proclaimed that Intel's Itanium chip, used in top-end HP Unix servers, was all but dead and that it would no longer develop its applications to run on Itanium.

HP responded in June by seeking damages and other remedies from Oracle for failing to live up to contractual obligations and "the interests of both companies' mutual customers."

Oracle later counter-sued HP alleging fraud, defamation, and intentional interference with contractual relations, among other offenses. Oracle alleged that HP had committed fraud by withholding its plans to hire Leo Apotheker as CEO and Board Chairman Ray Lane, adversaries of Oracle, when the two firms reached a settlement over HP's separate suit against Oracle for hiring ex-HP CEO Mark Hurd, who had a non-compete clause in his HP contract.

[ Want more on the Itanium controversy? Read HP To Oracle: The Gloves Are Off. ]

Judge James Kleinberg of the Superior Court ruled Monday that HP's alleged misrepresentations "did not prevent Oracle from participating in the negotiations" tied to the Hurd settlement. But the judge also rejected bids by both companies to seal documents in the ongoing Itanium case so the details won't be made public.

Both HP and Oracle declared victory in separate statements on Monday. The court's decision "further demonstrates the fact that Oracle breached its contractual commitment to HP and ignored its repeated promises of support to our shared customers,” according to HP's statement.

Oracle seized on one side of the judge's decision to reject both companies' requests to seal documents. "Oracle is delighted that [the court] has rejected HP’s attempt to hide the truth about Itanium’s certain end of life from its customers, partners and own employees," Oracle countered in its statement that HP's unsealed documents describe the HP-UX Unix operating system as "on a death march." Further, Oracle says HP documents reveal that the latest Itanium chip was released in a throttled-down version to create an illusion of a longer roadmap.

HP and Intel have refuted Oracle's claims about Itanium's long-term viability, and HP repeated its assertion in its latest statement that Oracle's move to stop developing software for the chip is "a calculated business strategy to drive hardware sales from Itanium to inferior Sun servers."

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