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Oracle sues SAP for 'grand scale' theft

Claims the German software rival stole thousands of copyrighted products, confidential materials.

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) -- Oracle sued SAP AG on Thursday for "corporate theft on a grand scale," claiming its business software rival used customers' online access codes to steal copyrighted software.

Oracle (Charts), which is battling with SAP (Charts) in the market for software that helps companies automate business functions, accused the German company of gaining repeated and unauthorized access to its password-protected customer support Web site.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison

This allowed SAP to copy thousands of Oracle software products and other confidential materials onto its own servers and compile an illegal library of copyrighted software code, the lawsuit charged.

"This case is about corporate theft on a grand scale, committed by the largest German software company - a conglomerate known as SAP," said the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

An SAP representative in Germany declined to comment on the latest battle in what has become a bitter rivalry.

Oracle has spent $20 billion buying software rivals over the past three years to challenge SAP, the leader in corporate applications that help automate everything from accounting to human resources to inventory management. Oracle is expanding into that market as its core database business matures.

Executives at both companies regularly belittle each other's products and strategies in public. Oracle has called SAP's NetWeaver product "net deceiver" while SAP has referred to Oracle's "Project Fusion" as "confusion."

In its lawsuit, Oracle said a "storehouse of stolen Oracle intellectual property" allowed SAP to offer cut-rate support services to Oracle customers and lure them to their own products.

Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle is seeking to stop SAP and prevent it from using illegally acquired materials, as well as damages and attorneys' fees, according to the lawsuit.

Oracle said it noticed unusual activity on its systems near the end of last year that did not resemble the kind of authorized access available to customers.

The lawsuit claims SAP employees using the log-in credentials of Oracle customers with expired or soon-to-expire support rights had, in a matter of a few days, accessed and copied thousands of materials.

The downloads were significant and spanned the support Web site, Oracle said. For example, the lawsuit claimed SAP, using one customer's credential, downloaded an average of more than 1,800 items per day for four straight days -- far above the average of 20 per month.

The lawsuit charges that such downloads originated not from any actual customer location but from an Internet address in Texas registered to SAP's wholly owned subsidiary TomorrowNow, founded by former PeopleSoft executives. Oracle purchased PeopleSoft in 2005.

"This theft appears to be an essential - and illegal - part of SAP's competitive strategy against Oracle," the 43-page complaint said.

Oracle shares were up more than 1.6 percent at $18.47 in afternoon trade while SAP shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange were down about 0.6 percent at $46.09.


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