Just Like That, Oracle Loses $1.3 Billion


SAP (NYS: SAP) finally caught a break. A judge has ruled that the German software maker can pay $272 million to Oracle (NAS: ORCL) for ill-gotten gains derived from a 2007 security breach. A jury had awarded $1.3 billion in a trial that concluded last November.

The ruling -- issued Thursday by Judge Phyllis Hamilton of the U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif. -- called the original award "grossly excessive" in light of the evidence presented, The New York Times reported.

For its part, Oracle said it would fight for the entire $1.3 billion. SAP, meanwhile, appears relieved to have found a sympathetic ear.

"We believed the jury's verdict was wrong and are pleased with the significant reduction in damages," the company said in a statement. "We are hopeful that this ruling will move the case toward an appropriate final resolution."

Wishful thinking? I think so. Oracle has never granted mercy to its enemies and SAP has long ranked up there with Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) on CEO Larry Ellison's hit list.

There's also the uncertainty principle to consider. No, not the quantum mechanics theory that says it's impossible to simultaneously measure the velocity and position of a subatomic particle, but rather the idea that litigation distracts from innovation and worries customers. More worry means more opportunity for Oracle to poach clients.

Sound harsh? Too much like a conspiracy theory? Maybe both. Just remember that Ellison is well-known for doing whatever he must to win, even if that means digging through Microsoft's trash, issuing personal attacks on competing executives, or hiring ethically questionable executives who possess an otherwise good record for making moola.

SAP can breathe a sigh of relief for now, but this battle isn't even close to over. Do you agree? Disagree? Please weigh in using the comments box below. You can also keep tabs on Oracle's war with SAP by adding these companies to your Foolish watchlist:

At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorTim Beyersis a member of theMotley Fool Rule Breakersstock-picking team. He owned shares of Oracle at the time of publication. Check out Tim'sportfolio holdingsandFoolish writings, or connect with him onGoogle+or Twitter, where he goes by@milehighfool. You can also get his insightsdelivered directly to your RSS reader.The Motley Fool owns shares of Oracle and Microsoft.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of and creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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