Wednesday, November 24, 2010

SAP to pay Oracle $1.3 bln in landmark decision

OAKLAND, Calif: SAP AG (SAPG.DE) must pay Oracle Corp (ORCL.O) $1.3 billion in damages for software theft, a jury verdict on Tuesday, Nov 23 that marked a victory for the U.S. company and ranked among the largest-ever payouts for copyright infringement.

The decision at the close of the sensational trial sent shares in Oracle up 1.5 percent in after-hours trade. The verdict drew a gasp from a packed courtroom and prompted hugs and handshakes among Oracle's legal team, which has pursued their case for years.

Europe's top software maker, which said it was disappointed by the verdict and may appeal, had previously accepted liability for its TomorrowNow subsidiary having wrongfully downloaded millions of Oracle's files. But it had estimated it owed no more than about $40 million in compensation .

Oracle had sought at least $1.65 billion in damages.

"Home run!" Eric Goldman, an associate professor at the Santa Clara University School of Law, wrote in an email. He expected SAP to appeal what he called among the 10 or 20 largest jury verdicts in U.S. legal history.

"I would expect there to be lots more shenanigans. but now SAP is truly on the run. they have to climb an even steeper mountain."

The two companies, which dominate the global market for software that helps businesses run more efficiently, this month began slugging it out in an Oakland, California courtroom, to determine the amount of damages.

The three-week trial featured testimony from such top executives as Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison -- whom SAP's lawyers accused of plucking damages numbers "out of the air" -- and President Safra Catz. SAP co-CEO Bill McDermott also took the stand and apologized to Oracle for the events surrounding TomorrowNow.

"We are, of course, disappointed by this verdict and will pursue all available options, including post-trial motions and appeal if necessary" SAP said in a statement in response to the verdict.

"The mark of a leading company is the way it handles its mistakes. As stated in court, we regret the actions of TN, we have accepted liability, and have been willing to fairly compensate Oracle."


Testimony in the trial, which captivated Silicon Valley, wrapped up last week without a hoped-for appearance by former SAP chief and current Hewlett-Packard Co CEO Leo Apotheker. - Reuters

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