Software // Information Management
Commentary
11/24/2010
07:51 AM
Rajan Chandras
Rajan Chandras
Commentary
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Oracle 1, SAP 0 (But Don't Forget the Sidelights)

Oracle's copyright infringement case against SAP was never about the money -- Oracle's objective was to embarrass SAP and gain customer mindshare. So, did they really accomplish that?

Oracle's copyright infringement case against SAP was never about the money -- Oracle's objective was to embarrass SAP and gain customer mindshare. So, did they really accomplish that?

Oracle's victory in the court was swift (once the trial got under way, that is) and decisive: SAP will have to pay Oracle a solid $1.3 billion in damages, on account of sordid activities carried out by its now-defunct subsidiary TomorrowNow. This amount is large -- in fact, the largest ever awarded in a copyright infringement case, apparently -- but yet hardly large enough to cause anything more than a ripple in the fortunes of either SAP or Oracle.SAP certainly got the slap on the wrist (or face) that it deserved: documents presented in court conclusively established that TomorrowNow's clandestine activities were no renegade behavior -- SAP executives were apparently fully aware of the goings-on. And ex-SAP CEO Leo Apotheker was put in the humiliating position of skipping around the world secretively to avoid a subpoena -- or, as he says, he was "traveling around the world visiting H.P. facilities." Well, he must have been advised by Perry Mason (for those of you old enough to understand this reference).

Seems like the damages were computed on the basis of how much Oracle would have charged SAP to legally license the software and other items it stole. Oracle claimed that a license would have been worth as much as $2 billion -- SAP claimed the damages were closer to $40 million "because it had persuaded only a few hundred of Oracle's customers to defect." This rejoinder is a little confusing -- Oracle is talking about SAP purchasing licenses for (presumably) its internal use; SAP is talking about license revenue potentially lost by Oracle on account of customer desertion. Be that as it may, clearly the jury sided with Oracle.

The only remaining question is: How well has Oracle succeeded in gaining customer respect for showing up SAP? Some analysts believe that this is a major victory for Oracle in terms of image… but then again, here's a nugget from the New York Times:

E-mail from Oracle executives highlighted their aggressive business tactics and a disdain for some of their own customers, one of which an executive referred to with an expletive.

So, you judge for yourself.

P.S., If you would like to refresh yourself on a brief history of this case, here are two posts I wrote when the circus first hit town:

Oracle's copyright infringement case against SAP was never about the money -- Oracle's objective was to embarrass SAP and gain customer mindshare. So, did they really accomplish that?

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