SAP Expected To Admit Liability In Oracle Lawsuit, Trial To Focus On Damages

SAP won't contest Oracle's charge that SAP's now-defunct TomorrowNow service subsidiary committed copyright infringement when it downloaded software and support materials from Oracle Websites.

The trial in the long-running lawsuit, scheduled to start Monday with jury selection in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, will now focus solely on the issue of damages in the case.

SAP's stipulation, agreed to late Thursday during a conference call between attorneys for the two sides, is the latest twist in the contentious case. This week Oracle issued a volley of incendiary press releases that accused former SAP CEO Leo Apotheker of "overseeing an industrial espionage scheme" to steal "massive amounts of Oracle's software."

Oracle has threatened to subpoena Apotheker to testify for the trial and that has created friction with Hewlett-Packard which recently hired Apotheker as its new CEO. Apotheker officially starts in the CEO job on Monday.

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Oracle sued SAP in 2007 charging that TomorrowNow employees illegally downloaded software and other copyrighted support material as part of its customer support operations. SAP acquired TomorrowNow, a third-party software services company, in 2005 in an effort to penetrate Oracle customer accounts. SAP has since shut down the TomorrowNow subsidiary.

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Oracle and SAP attorneys, in a phone conference Thursday with U.S. District Court judge Phyllis Hamilton, agreed that SAP "will stipulate to liability for contributory copyright infringement leaving only damages issues for trial," according to a "civil minutes" document filed with the court. Given that the case will now focus solely on the issue of damages, the trial will be limited to 30 hours for each side.

"Today, SAP has finally confessed it knew about the theft all along," Oracle said in a written statement issued late Thursday. "The evidence at trial will show that the SAP Board of Directors valued Oracle's copyrighted software so highly, they were willing to steal it rather than to compete fairly."

SAP previously indicated that it would admit to liability in the case. In a court filing in early August the company admitted that TomorrowNow "made mistakes" and illegally downloaded software and support materials from Oracle. But the company at the time argued that Oracle's damage claims were "vastly exaggerated" and true damages were valued in tens of millions of dollars rather than the billions Oracle is seeking.