Oracle Allowed to View Rivals Sensitive Data

Company's in-house attorneys can prepare for government's antitrust trial by studying documents including competitors' product development plans, U.S. District judge rules.

During a pretrial conference Friday, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled in favor of Oracle Corp.s request to have its in-house attorneys view its rivals sensitive—and competitive—information.

The documents, which the U.S. Justice Department obtained during its eight-month investigation into Oracles proposed takeover of PeopleSoft Inc., are said to contain trade secrets of some of Oracles biggest competitors.

Early last week, a handful of those competitors—Microsoft Corp., SAP AG, Lawson Software Inc. and QAD Inc. —asked the court to restrict access to the thousands of documents each submitted to the Justice Department.

The U.S. Department of Defense and Fidelity Employer Services made similar requests.

The enterprises have argued that Oracles in-house attorneys could make "inadvertent disclosures" of sensitive information to other insiders of the Redwood Shores, Calif., company. With the San Francisco federal courts ruling, Oracle will have access to information including product development plans and bidding procedures.

The ruling wont become effective until Tuesday, providing a chance to appeal.

In a concession to the companies that requested limited access, Walker ruled that Oracles in-house attorneys and its outside law firm cannot use an internal server to trade sensitive electronic documents.

Separately, the judge sided with both Oracle and the Justice Department in his decision not to bring in an outside expert witness. Instead, the judge will use a tutorial to catch up on the ins and outs of the software industry.

In seeking to block Oracles $9.4 billion hostile takeover bid for PeopleSoft, the Justice Department filed suit against Oracle in late February, saying that a combination of the two companies would harm competition in the software industry.

The Justice Department has defined the upper tier of the software industry as consisting of three companies: Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP.

In its defense, Oracle has said that the market consists of many more players, including Microsoft and Lawson.

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