Oracle Lawsuit: SAP Committed 'Theft On A Grand Scale'

Oracle alleged that workers at an SAP subsidiary "copied and swept thousands of Oracle products and other proprietary and confidential materials into its own servers."
Oracle's courthouse claims that SAP stole from it gigabytes of valuable customer-support software from September 2006 to January include dozens of stunning allegations that, if true, describe one of the most egregious cases of corporate shenanigans in computing industry history.

Oracle alleged in the lawsuit that workers at an SAP subsidiary "copied and swept thousands of Oracle products and other proprietary and confidential materials into its own servers" using fake log-ins or credentials stolen from legitimate, high-profile Oracle customers such as Honeywell, Merck & Co., Bear Stearns, and others.

The trove of ill-gotten products allowed SAP "to offer cut-rate support services to customers who use Oracle software, and to attempt to lure them to SAP's applications software," Oracle said.

The aggrieved software maker claimed that workers at the subsidiary, SAP TomorrowNow, in one instance used the phony IDs to access Oracle servers and download "more than 1,800 items per day for four days straight"

Oracle charged that an investigation into huge traffic spikes on its Customer Connect servers led to computers with IP addresses originating from within SAP TomorrowNow's Bryan, Texas, offices.

The alleged thieves left trails that even the Keystone Cops could follow, according to the suit.

For instance, SAP employees allegedly would at times log in to Oracle's servers using easy-to-spot fake names like NULL or, simply, User. On other occasions they would key in obviously phony e-mail addresses like [email protected] and bogus phone numbers comprised of a single, repeating digit.

In the suit, Oracle further charged that SAP has been scheming for new ways to "undermine" it ever since SAP unsuccessfully tried to block Oracle's acquisition of enterprise software maker PeopleSoft in 2004. "SAP suddenly found itself in a far different competitive environment" after the merger and "had no answer," the suit stated.

Oracle claimed SAP went so far as to acquire SAP TomorrowNow -- which offers cut-rate support services on Oracle products -- in early 2005 solely for the purpose of gaining Oracle customer records held by the firm. It referred to a support program called Safe Passage that SAP TomorrowNow operated in an effort to lure away Oracle customers as "Stolen Passage."

Oracle, in the complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, said that "industry analysts wondered whether a small company like SAP TomorrowNow, even after having expanded its ranks to 150 employees, could actually develop and offer ... hundreds of regulatory updates, bug fixes, patches, and other labor-intensive support items," noting that Oracle needs a staff of 15,000 engineers to accomplish the same tasks.

"Oracle has now solved this puzzle," the complaint said. "To stave off the mounting competitive threat from Oracle, SAP unlawfully accessed and copied Oracle's Software and Support Materials.

Oracle called the thefts "an essential -- and illegal -- part of SAP's competitive strategy against Oracle."

The complaint didn't use the dry legalese typically found in such documents and at times waxed philosophical about the case. It noted that SAP America CEO Bill McDermott once "crowed" that, "'There's nothing I love more than to win.'" But "win at what cost?" Oracle asked in court papers.

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