SAP has dramatically announced that it will not dispute accusations made by Oracle that the company was aware of the theft of software and support materials by TomorrowNow.
The company said in a court filing (PDF) that it "now elects not to contes, the claim for contributory copyright infringement", as it fears doing so would turn the event in to a "media circus" that Oracle would use to attack its chief rivals.
"Whether SAP is contributorily liable or not does not affect damages at trial at all, and keeping the issue in the case would only satisfy Plaintiffs' desire to turn the upcoming trial into a sideshow, focused on people and companies who are not even parties to this dispute," it read.
"The point is not whether [former SAP chief executive] Léo Apotheker should testify or whether Oracle has any standing to complain about HP's decisions over its chief executive. The point is that Oracle plainly intends to use weeks of trial to harass its competitors."
This relates to statements made by Oracle chief Larry Ellison about the way HP handled the removal of Mark Hurd and the subsequent appointment of Apotheker as HP chief executive.
Oracle has now issued a strongly worded statement claiming that SAP's concession is clear evidence that the company had always known of the theft of its products.
"SAP management has insisted for three and a half years of litigation that it knew nothing about SAP's own massive theft of Oracle's intellectual property. Today, SAP has finally confessed it knew about the theft all along," said Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger.
"The evidence at trial will show that the SAP board of directors valued Oracle's copyrighted software so highly that they were willing to steal it rather than compete fairly."
Robin Fry, a partner at law firm Beachcroft LLP, argued that SAP's move could be fuelled by a desire for its executives not to have to take to the stand, rather than a pure business decision.
"The admission by SAP is very unusual for a major copyright infringement suit where businesses are usually determined to contest every possible point, particularly in a case where damages might run into billions," he said.
"Clearly there are some haunted senior executives desperate to avoid a humiliating turn in the witness box. This move probably says more about personal fear than a commercial litigation strategy."
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