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HP's Redacted Oracle Lawsuit: Some Juicy Details Blacked Out

Joseph F. Kovar

Hewlett-Packard's lawsuit against former top technology partner Oracle, filed Wednesday, contains allegations of breach of contract, libel, intentional interference to disrupt business relationships, and violations of business codes.

However, the most potentially interesting aspects and allegations of the lawsuit have yet to be presented in a public forum as the copy of the lawsuit provided by HP contains about 20 percent redacted text.

An HP spokesperson told CRN that the redactions were of "confidential information," but declined to provide further information. Oracle also declined to discuss the nature of the redacted information.

HP on Wednesday filed the lawsuit in the Superior Court of California, for the County of Santa Clara, against Oracle, accusing its former partner of breaching agreements related to Oracle's development of software for HP's Itanium-based server line.

The lawsuit stems from the March decision by Oracle to end development of its software for the Itanium processor. HP and its solution providers saw that move as a way to force HP customers to move to Oracle server platforms. However, Oracle said it was related to a decision by Intel to end development of the Itanium processor, a development which HP and Intel both denied.

HP's lawsuit starts out by recounting many of the arguments between it and Oracle, already reported widely by the media, including CRN.

However, the lawsuit also highlights some new allegations that Oracle has not been patching critical flaws in its software for users of its database software on HP's Itanium-based Integrity servers, and that Oracle has been offering its own servers to HP customers a no cost or below cost. If true, those represent serious threats to HP's Integrity server business.

Also interesting is HP's mention in the lawsuit that it and Oracle have been jointly developing the upcoming 12g version of Oracle's next-generation database software as late as last months despite Oracle's public decision to end development with the currently 11g version. That could imply that the two companies had been discussing the possibility of continued Oracle support for HP's integrity despite the public feud between them.

Unfortunately, the most potentially tantalizing details of the feud between Oracle and HP were covered in black boxes, making them impossible to read. The covered sections could perhaps include confidential information about third parties to the agreements. Perhaps by redacting the details, HP hopes that the information remains confidential if it and Oracle come to an out-of-court settlement.

In the lawsuit, a copy of which was provided to CRN by HP and which is also available at the Scribd website, HP accused Oracle of failing "to live up to a clear and simple promise to work with HP in the interests of both companies' mutual customers." HP also said that Oracle has gone from HP partner to "bitter antagonist" in eight months starting with Oracle's September decision to hire former HP CEO Mark Hurd.

HP accused Oracle of making several false statements and of breaching its contractual commitment to HP to support customers using Oracle software on HP Itanium hardware.

Oracle, however, has been trying to "force" customers to shift from HP's Itanium servers to Oracle servers, HP wrote in the lawsuit. For example, "when customers have complained of critical bugs in Oracle's existing software that Oracle has a duty to fix, Oracle has refused to do so, demanding instead that customers move to the next version of the software, which Oracle says will not run on HP's Itanium servers," HP wrote.

HP also accused Oracle of purposely harming HP's customers. "Having induced customers to commit to Oracle's software products with promises of future support on their existing hardware, Oracle is now exploiting the leverage it enjoys over these customers to try to force them to change to Oracle's hardware," HP wrote in the lawsuit.

HP further accused Oracle of effectively doubling the price charged to HP's Itanium-based server customers for Oracle licenses on December 1. "Oracle's decision ... lacks any legitimate business or technical justification and was designed to disadvantage HP's Itanium platform," HP wrote in the lawsuit.

Furthermore, HP accused Oracle of promising to provide support to customers of Oracle software products that currently run on Itanium hardware and then not offering that support. For instance, HP accused Oracle of not providing such customers with patches to fix critical bugs in Oracle's existing software as a way to force them to adopt other server hardware, including Oracle's Sun servers which HP accused Oracle of providing to some customers for free or at reduced charges.

HP also wrote that HP and Oracle engineers had already spent months working together to prepare the version 12g of Oracle's database product for the Itanium platform, and that that development continued until late last month.

Next: What HP Wants In The Lawsuit


HP is looking for relief from the courts due to 10 different cause of actions, which are combinations of facts used to justify a lawsuit. Three of those causes of action were completely redacted in the lawsuit, preventing the public from reading them. As a result of the redaction, HP's desired response from the Court is also unreadable.

For two other causes of action is related to Oracle's alleged breach of contract and promises in regard to its software on Itanium-based servers, HP is asking the Court to force Oracle to perform the contract signed between the two because there are no other adequate legal remedies.

HP is also seeking putative and other damages related to Oracle's alleged libel against HP and its alleged intentional interference in HP's business.

Three of the causes of action are related to HP's allegations that Oracle violated California laws by selling servers below their fully allocated costs and by engaging in "fraudulent and deceptive business practices."

Oracle declined to further comment on the lawsuit or on the redacted copy other than the statement it released on Wednesday.

Joseph F. Kovar

Joseph F. Kovar is a senior editor and reporter for the storage and the non-tech-focused channel beats for CRN. He keeps readers abreast of the latest issues related to such areas as data life-cycle, business continuity and disaster recovery, and data centers, along with related services and software, while highlighting some of the key trends that impact the IT channel overall. He can be reached at jkovar@thechannelcompany.com.

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