SAP's TomorrowNow Support Service At Heart of Oracle Lawsuit

Oracle's 43-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, focuses on SAP's TomorrowNow, a third-party provider of support services for Oracle's PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards and Siebel product lines. SAP acquired TomorrowNow in 2005 and operates the business as an independent subsidiary. TomorrowNow specializes in picking off Oracle customers and converting them to its own, lower-cost maintenance and support offerings.

Oracle claims in its legal filing that SAP TomorrowNow employees have used the log-in credentials of several about-to-depart Oracle customers to log in and download huge swaths of Oracle software and support material.

"As a result of this illegal activity, SAP apparently has now warehoused an extensive library of Oracle's proprietary, copyrighted software and support materials," Oracle wrote in its filing. "This theft appears to be an essential -- and illegal -- part of SAP's competitive strategy against Oracle."

SAP declined to comment on Oracle's charges until it has had more time to review the paperwork.

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"We have just been notified of the lawsuit and have taken note of the Oracle press release. 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," a company spokesman said in a written statement.

One unusual angle to Oracle's lawsuit is that it's complaining about downloads of materials that its customers lacked contractual rights to take -- even though they appear to have had unfettered access to the material. Oracle's support contacts grant customers access and download rights only to material relevant to their licensed products. SAP's employees allegedly used TomorrowNow customers' log-ins to download material beyond the scope of those customers' supported products, and also in some cases used log-ins for customers whose support rights had already expired.

"Using one customer's credentials, SAP suddenly downloaded an average of over 1,800 items per day for four days straight [compared to that customer's normal downloads averaging 20 per month]," Oracle wrote. "The materials copied not only related to unlicensed products, but to entire Oracle product families that the customers had not licensed."

Oracle did not explain in the filing why its customers would have access to restricted support materials for products they had not licensed.

While conceding that SAP may have had some legitimate basis to access Oracle's Web site as a contract consultant for Oracle customers with current support rights, Oracle blasted the company for violating its support terms by accessing material to which those customers lacked legal rights.

"Oracle has learned that SAP [TomorrowNow] accessed and downloaded the software and support materials ... in a way that grossly violated the limited access rights it did have," Oracle wrote. "Further, during the period of time between when the customer's support license lapsed and when Oracle decommissioned the customer's password credentials, SAP TN still accessed and downloaded [material] using the old customer passwords."

Oracle's complaint names more than two dozen customers on whose behalf SAP allegedly downloaded Oracle materials. The company does not allege that the downloaded material was shared broadly throughout SAP, or that it moved beyond the TomorrowNow subsidiary, but it insinuates that TomorrowNow's service is heavily dependent on Oracle's material for its success.

"SAP appears to have taken a short cut to equip itself to support Oracle's software programs at half Oracle's price," the company wrote. "SAP stole much of the software and support materials directly from Oracle."

Oracle's complaint describes specific circumstances in which customer log-ins were allegedly abused for five TomorrowNow customers. The IT director for one of them, Metro Machine, declined to comment on the situation. A spokesman for Honeywell also declined comment, releasing this statement: "Honeywell's understanding of the matter is limited to news accounts regarding litigation between the two competing companies. Accordingly, we won't comment on the matter."

Representatives for the other three -- Merck, OCE Technologies BV and SPX -- could not be immediately reached for comment.

TomorrowNow customers have in the past said that one of the company's recommendations is that customers download all material to which they are entitled before their support contract with Oracle lapses, to stockpile for later use.

Oracle is seeking an injunction blocking SAP from further accessing Oracle's customer-support Web site and prohibiting it from using material obtained from the site. It's also asking for punitive damages, with the sum to be determined at a jury trial.