September 01, 2011, 4:33 PM — Larry Ellison really likes to win, so his response to a federal judge's decision to reduce by three-quarters a $1.3 billion verdict against SAP AG for infringing on Oracle software copyrights should be, um, interesting.
The Oracle chief executive made it clear in the weeks leading up to and during last fall's trial that he took SAP's intellectual theft personally. Ellison bashed German-based SAP and mocked its former CEO, Leo Apotheker, who was the subject of an Oracle subpoena that was never served because Apotheker scrupulously avoided HP's Palo Alto headquarters after starting his new job just as the trial was beginning in early November.
Oracle accused SAP's now-shuttered TomorrowNow unit of possessing more than 700 copies of Oracle's business management software, none of which it had paid for. SAP was planning to use the software to reach Oracle customers and convert them to competing SAP products, according to Oracle's attorneys.
Ellison's satisfaction over the initial jury verdict likely seems like a distant, fond memory now that U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton, who presided over last November's trial, reduced the $1.3 billion award to a mere $272 million.
Ellison wanted SAP to pay more $4 billion, while SAP was thinking more along the lines of $40 million. Since SAP already had admitted to the intellectual-property theft, the trial was all about how much it should pay. Hamilton's figure is much closer to SAP's than Ellison's, so it's fair to say that Oracle's win just became Ellison's loss.
(I have this image of an Oracle PR assistant pleading with Ellison to edit from his official response to the verdict the sentence, "I'll tell you what's gross and excessive -- Judge Phyllis Hamilton!")