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Oracle Wins Largest-Ever Copyright Infringement Verdict From SAP

Kevin Douglas Grant |
November 23, 2010 | 6:47 p.m. PST

Executive Editor

A small, underperforming unit has cost the world's largest business software maker $1.3 billion after a jury found it committed massive copyright violations against its top competitor.

SAP-owned operation TomorrowNow illegally downloaded Oracle software hundreds of thousands of times, and made thousands of unlicensed copies, according to evidence presented at trial in Oakland.

Although SAP didn't contest its responsibility for the now-defunct unit (which closed in 2008), it tried to limit the damages to a mere $40.6 million. The jury didn't buy it.

Oracle claimed in the lawsuit, filed in 2007, that TomorrowNow used the pirated software to "offer technical support to customers of companies that were acquired by Oracle, to lure the customers to buy products from SAP, and to deprive Oracle of support revenue for future product development ... TomorrowNow had a program to automate the downloading of the software from Oracle’s customer-service websites, which at one point crashed Oracle’s computer systems."

Even worse, Oracle claimed, SAP knew full well that TomorrowNow was breaking the law when it acquired them in 2005, and may have done so expressly to commit corporate espionage.  In the end, however, it turned out that TomorrowNow did a poor job of actually stealing away SAP's customers.

Oracle's billionaire CEO Larry Ellison, known as one of the most boisterous egos in Silicon Valley, used every opportunity to damage SAP's reputation as the trial progressed.  He repeatedly ridiculed former SAP CEO Leo Apotheker, at one point reportedly hiring private detectives to follow him.

When Hewlett-Packard hired Apotheker as their new CEO in September, Ellison wrote to the Wall Street Journal:  "I’m speechless...HP had several good internal candidates…but instead they pick a guy who was recently fired because he did such a bad job of running SAP."

For his part, Apotheker managed to avoid testifying at the trial after an absurd cat-and-mouse game.  Now that the verdict is in, SAP must decide whether it wants to appeal and risk a public retrial, or go ahead and pay the money.

Bloomberg reports that the verdict is the 23rd largest jury verdict in U.S. history.   



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