Oracle to SAP: See You in Court

In a lawsuit, Oracle claims its industry rival SAP illegally downloaded Oracle products to gain a competitive advantage.

The rivalry between Oracle and SAP took a new turn March 22 when Oracle sued SAP for allegedly stealing copyrighted software using customers online access codes.

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Oracle accuses SAP of gaining repeated and unauthorized access to its password-protected customer support Web site and compiling a library of illegally obtained software code.

"This case is about corporate theft on a grand scale, committed by the largest German software company—a conglomerate known as SAP," the lawsuit says. "From that Web site, SAP has copied and swept thousands of Oracle software products and other proprietary and confidential material onto its own servers."

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Michael Prosceno, spokesperson for SAP, based in Walldorf, Germany, said little beyond stating that SAP is aware of the lawsuit. "We are still reviewing the matter, and until we have a chance to study the allegations, SAP will follow its standard policy of not commenting on pending litigation," he said.

Oracle has spent $20 billion buying software rivals over the past three years as it challenges SAP, the leader in corporate applications that help automate everything from accounting to human resources to inventory management. Oracle is expanding into that market as its core database business matures.

In the lawsuit, Oracle, based in Redwood Shores, Calif., seeks to prevent SAP from using the products in question, as well as to receive compensation for damages and legal fees. By stealing the copyrighted software, the lawsuit claims, SAP was able to offer support services to Oracle customers at low rates and attract them to SAP products.

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Also according to the lawsuit, in late November and December of 2006, Oracle noticed a large number of users on the online support Web site clicking the "No, continue search" option at a high speed. Company officials deduced that the users could not be reading the products being accessed, and instead an automated process was being employed to move quickly through the entire library of software and support materials in an effort to copy them all, the lawsuit states.

"Indeed, Oracle soon discovered that many of these customers had taken massive quantities of software and support materials beyond their license rights, over and over again," the suit states.

According to Oracle, the downloads were traced to an IP address in Bryan, Texas, home to an American branch office of SAP and its wholly owned subsidiary TomorrowNow. The amount of downloading was extensive. In one case, a single TN customers log-in ID was used to download almost 1,800 items per day for four consecutive days—greatly exceeding the 20 downloads per month averaged by that ID before the customer became a TN client, the suit states.

The complain concludes, "This theft appears to be an essential—and illegal—part of SAPs competitive strategy against Oracle."

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