Oracle wins $30 million after software copyright infringement trial against HPE.

Oracle wins $30 million after software copyright infringement trial against HPE.

HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) will pay $30 million to Oracle for copyright infringement after a judge found the company guilty of offering customers Solaris software updates without Big Red’s permission.

The judgment is the culmination of a 3-week trial in Oakland, California. And it’s set to be contested by HPE.

This case was raised initially some years back when Oracle stated that HPE had given illegal updates via a scheme designed by Terix, a software support provider, that settled its case for about $58 million in 2015.

During this week’s proceedings, Christopher Yates of Latham & Watkins LLP, the Oracle’s lawyer, pressed the 8-person jury to give his client $72 million for HPE with software not under a support contract and for pinching clients like Comcast.

According to Yates, “If you award anything less, it would be letting HPE off the hook for knowingly infringing [Oracle’s] IP.” 

Yates mentioned testimony from HPE staff that sensed something wasn’t right when using Terix services, alleging HPE management ignored it.

Also, Yates expressed that HPE worked with Terix to pinch Oracle’s IP. And that Oracle’s legal representative leaned on testimony from Christian Hicks, the Oracle computer science professional, who poured more than 35 HPE customers and discovered thousands of alleged infringing patches.

On behalf of HPE, Jeffrey Todd Thomas of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP disclosed that Oracle was hyping the height of the problem. He admitted that few HPE persons made mistakes.

Thomas cites Law360; “But now Oracle is trying to take advantage of Terix’s conduct and confusion [Oracle] created to get huge damages.”

After a full day of debate, the judge discovered that HPE had breached copyright laws and priced it at $30 million. The company also awarded $24 million [PDF] in damages against HPE for deliberately interfering with Oracle’s customers. 

According to the attorney, only the bigger damages will apply. And HPE won’t be on the hook for any punitive damages.

Over the years, Oracle has been waging legal wars against anybody it suspects of stealing its copyrighted code. In 2013, the company first pushed lawyers against Terix and fired some sueballs at HPE in 2016 for the Terix partnership.

In 2018, Bernd Appleby, the former Terix boss, was sentenced to two years for wire fraud, working as a Solaris support shop without maintaining and buying an Oracle. The lawsuit against HPE was thrown out in 2019 but later revived in 2021.

This latest payout, if it’s not altered in appeal, will be a small part of the $3 billion Oracle was mandated to pay to HPE in damages after violating an old agreement when it didn’t add Itanium support to its database wares. 

The United States Supreme Court refused to overturn the decision last month.

Meanwhile, HPE has maintained it disagrees with the verdict. It’s now evaluating various options.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay