Monster $1.3b Oracle copyright award thrown out by judge

A US judge has tossed out a $US1.3 billion dollar award for damages that a jury ordered German business software giant SAP to pay US rival Oracle for copyright infringement.

US District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton referred to the record-setting jury award as "grossly excessive" in a ruling that suggested a figure of $272 million was more appropriate given evidence in the case.

"We believed the jury's verdict was wrong and are pleased at the significant reduction in damages," said SAP spokesman Andy Kendzie.

"We are hopeful that this ruling will move the case toward an appropriate final resolution," he added. "SAP is focused on innovation more than litigation."

Oracle countered that the jury was on target with its assessment of the severity of SAP's transgression and how much the company should pay.

"We believe the jury got it right and we intend to pursue the full measure of damages that we believe are owed to Oracle," said Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger.

"There was voluminous evidence regarding the massive scope of the theft, clear involvement of SAP management in the misconduct and the tremendous value of the IP (intellectual property) stolen," she maintained.

Oracle can accept the lowered award amount or seek a new trial.

A US jury in November ordered SAP to pay Oracle 1.3 billion dollars in damages for copyright infringement.

Oracle attorneys at the time called the copyright damages award the highest ever and hailed the verdict as a resounding warning that stealing intellectual property from technology companies will not be tolerated.

SAP subsidiary TomorrowNow recovered and copied massive amounts of Oracle software and confidential data by posing as clients, according to court documents.

A customised software tool dubbed "Titan" was allegedly used to plunder Oracle's website of patches, updates, fixes and other programs crafted for Oracle's paying customers.

SAP admitted to the copyright infringement in legal "stipulations" that cleared the way for a jury trial regarding how much should be paid to Oracle in damages.

"SAP wanted to take responsibility," Oracle attorney David Boies said after the jury revealed its decision. "They now have the opportunity to do that and move on."

During closing arguments in the case, SAP attorney Robert Mittelstaedt conceded the copyright infringement by SAP and focused on minimizing any damage award.

"I'm not proud of this and SAP is not proud of this," Mittelstaedt said.

Jurors interviewed after the verdict said that deliberations focused on how much SAP might have had to pay if it began licensing Oracle's copyrighted technology in 2005 instead of swiping it.

Award amounts discussed by the jury ranged from $519 million to three billion dollars, according to the jury foreman, who declined to give his name.

Jurors were convinced that top SAP executives were aware of what was taking place "every step of the way," the foreman said.

-AFP

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