$1.3 billion damage award a clear victory for Oracle

Amount determined by jury far more than SAP thought it should pay for software theft

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The $1.3 billion in damages awarded Oracle by a federal jury in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday was a clear victory for the database vendor in its case against German business software vendor SAP.

SAP had admitted that its now-defunct subsidiary, TomorrowNow, had stolen software from Oracle in an attempt to win customers. But SAP had only wanted to pay in the area of $40 million to compensate Oracle. The three-week trial was held to determine how much SAP would owe.

Yes, Oracle founder and chief executive Larry Ellison testified that he believed SAP owed his company at least $4 billion for the copyright infringement. But that's just gamesmanship. Oracle's own damages expert pegged the number at $1.7 billion, which the jury obviously found a lot more reasonable.

It appears to have been a pretty clear-cut issue for the jury, which took less than a day of deliberations to render its verdict.

IDG News Service reports that "members of Oracle's legal team embraced each other as the verdict was read in the U.S. District Court," which is a pretty good indication of how they felt about the amount.

And while the damage award certainly isn't going to put SAP out of business, the jury's decision must have stung. According to IDG, SAP vows to "pursue all its options" to reverse the verdict, including post-trial motions (otherwise known as technicalities) and an appeal.

Who knows, maybe SAP will sue Hewlett-Packard for hiding former CEO Leo Apotheker during the trial. Apotheker, who became chief executive of HP on Nov. 1, evaded an Oracle subpoena as the trial progressed. SAP could argue that Apotheker's testimony somehow would have mitigated the damage award. I think they call it the kitchen-sink defense.

Chris Nerney writes about the business side of technology market strategies and trends, legal issues, leadership changes, mergers, venture capital, IPOs and technology stocks. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisNerney.

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