The Larry-land Oracle fun machine rode through court last week with SAP in the dock over stealing Oracle copyright material.
As SAP had recently admitted the wrong doing by its now defunct subsidiary Tomorrow Now, the Californian court is focused on establishing the extent of damages inflicted on Oracle. And while Oracle’s case details were presented with typical confidence by Oracle president Safra Catz, Ellison took the opportunity to personalise this battle with an appearance on the witness stand.
Ellison also took the opportunity to add insult to his opponents’ injuries by calling former SAP supremo Leo Apotheker to the stand by court subpoena.
Why make it personal?
- Oracle want to maximise SAP damages payout. SAP originally suggested damages in the “tens of millions” although its accounts provisioned for $120m, it then formerly offered $120m earlier this week. Oracle initially claimed $2bn although Ellison himself trumped this to a staggering $4bn on Monday. The court has ruled that the central claim will be limited to, a not-insignificant, $1.66bn. Oracle will aim to up this through associated claims for avoidance of licensing costs and SAP will try to reduce it through further dispute.
- SAP integrity and ethics are also in the dock. SAP has persistently denied knowledge of the actions of the subsidiary it acquired. However, TomorrowNow only traded to provide third party support to Oracle and such support was only possible using Oracle copyright protected material. This would suggest to most people that this may indeed have been SAP’s reason behind the acquisition - to gain from Oracle loss. SAP is uncomfortable about the case and particularly by the publicity, failing last month to get a gagging order to avoid the public watching its dirty doings unfold. Ellison who once said that “success was not enough, you need to see others fail” has grabbed the opportunity to get the media circus into a frenzy against his key enemy in enterprise applications.
- By calling former SAP head, Apotheker, to the stand, Ellison really has had the last laugh. Apotheker and his new paymaster HP have so far avoided being served by hiding and accusing Oracle of harassment. Apotheker claims he knew nothing of TomorrowNow’s illegal activities and Ellison claims SAP under his watch positively endorsed the activity and that he can prove it.
What fun for Larry, he gets to distract Leo as he tries to get his feet under his HP desk and calls into question his business ethics as a nice little taster for HP Chairman and former Oracle number two, Ray Lane. All the more amusing for Larry that his own new number two Mark Hurd was kicked out of HP earlier this year for no more than mis-claiming a meal on expenses.
We watch and wait for further antics in court - where it does look likely that Oracle will be able collect a settlement large enough to more than offset any provisions it is making in its own court case as the US Justice dept vs Oracle. Oracle has been deadly silent on this one and it’s likely to hit 2011 before it surfaces. Watch this space.