Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

HP and Oracle Talk Pretrial Trash in Itanium Case

Hewlett-Packard and Oracle continue to wrangle in court over the Itanium chip. Now that both sides have failed to convince the judge hearing the case to side with them and throw out the other’s case, all that’s left is for the judge to narrow the scope of the arguments that lawyers for both sides will be allowed to make when the trial starts, probably next month.

New documents in the case came public yesterday, essentially spelling out Judge James Kleinberg’s ruling from May 1 in turning back Oracle’s motion for summary judgement. It’s not a terribly big deal, because both sides asked for summary judgement and failed to get it, as happens nearly all of the time in cases that get this far.

One key piece of their dispute arises from the fact that when they settled another lawsuit in 2010, stemming from Oracle’s hiring of former HP CEO Mark Hurd, there was, as HP argues, a provision included requiring Oracle to continue making software that supports servers running Intel’s exotic Itanium chip. A good deal of the fighting between the companies at trial is going to revolve around this point, and whether or not that agreement is enforceable or even exists. What that provision called for, essentially, was for Oracle to continue supporting Itanium as it had previously.

A key paragraph in the judge’s ruling:

“In the Court’s view, it is not unreasonable to interpret the Reaffirmation Provision as imposing a prospective obligation on Oracle to continue to offer products for HP’s platforms; the plain language is readily susceptible to that interpretation. If the prior, existing obligation before [Mark] Hurd’s hiring involved a clear and consistent practice in which Oracle offered its product suite on all HP platforms without written porting agreements or payments, then the Court sees no inherent contradiction in ‘reaffirming’ that this arrangement will continue going forward.”

Both sides in this case never miss an opportunity to poke each other in the eye with public statements. HP struck first last night:

“HP is pleased that the Court ruled that the language in the HP/Oracle agreement can be interpreted to require Oracle to continue porting its software products to the HP Integrity platform, as Oracle did for years before the agreement. As the ruling states, Oracle’s interpretation would make the agreement ‘illusory’ and ‘should be rejected.’ We look forward to trial, where the details of Oracle’s deliberate, anti-customer business strategy to drive hardware sales from Itanium to inferior Sun servers will be revealed.”

But it’s important to remember that HP lost its motion for summary judgement, too. Also, didn’t HP convince the judge that the Itanium provision of the Hurd settlement agreement means exactly what it thinks it does? At least that’s how Oracle attorney Dan Wall saw it, in a statement sent to AllThingsD this morning.

“HP cannot be happy with this decision. The Court did not accept HP’s interpretation of the Hurd settlement agreement; in fact, it rejected out of hand the most recent version of HP’s argument, which equated the contract with terms HP proposed, but Oracle rejected. HP’s lawsuit, like Itanium itself, is living on borrowed time and will never succeed.”

Anyway, the 29-page judge’s opinion that kicked off this latest pretrial PR salvo is below:

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