HP Can’t Duck Most of Oracle’s Copyright Suit

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A federal judge handed a major victory to Oracle in its copyright fight with another titan of the technology sector, Hewlett Packard.
     U.S. District Judge John Tigar will allow the bulk of the copyright infringement claims against Hewlett Packard to move forward, finding there was sufficient evidence that HP encouraged its subcontractor to provide software updates to Oracle’s products without the authority to do so.
     Oracle creates database software systems, cloud-based engineering and database management systems, including its own line of Sun server systems. Oracle further offers customers the ability to purchase service contracts, meaning Oracle representatives will assist customers in troubleshooting various aspects of the products while providing periodic upgrades and software updates.
     Hewlett Packard offers extensive software products, part of which includes supportive services to some of Oracle’s products.
     Oracle filed suit in March, claiming Hewlett Packard and one of its subcontractors, Terix, were falsely representing to customers that the companies provide patches, updates and bug fixes for Oracle’s operating systems despite knowing that Oracle requires customers to purchase a contract to receive those services.
     “HP falsely represented to customers that HP and Terix could lawfully provide Solaris Updates and other support services at a lower cost than Oracle, and then worked with Terix to improperly access and provide Oracle’s proprietary Solaris updates to customers,” Oracle claims in the complaint.
     Oracle filed claims of direct copyright infringement, contributory copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement, intentional interference with contractual relations, intentional interference with prospective economic relations and two separate provisions of California’s unfair competition law.
     Hewlett Packard filed a motion to dismiss, saying Oracle failed to specify which of its copyrights were infringed and that while Oracle claims Hewlett Packard knew Terix was installing Oracle’s proprietary software updates, it does not sufficiently allege that Hewlett Packard was aware such activity is illegal.
     “This argument strains credibility,” Tigar wrote in the ruling. “The complaint is replete with specific factual allegations including quotes from HP’s internal presentations and HP’s employee’s emails, from which HP’s actual knowledge of Terix’s infringing acts can be plausibly inferred.”
     The judge also said there is ample evidence to let the contract interference claim go forward, finding that Hewlett Packard employees knew Oracle had a contract with customers to provide patches, updates and fixes, but directed customers to Terix despite this knowledge.
     Tigar did grant Hewlett Packard two minor victories. He dismissed the vicarious copyright infringement claim, finding that HP did not have sufficient power to stop Terix from circumventing Oracle’s service contracts.
     He also dismissed one of the two claims under the unfair competition law, allowing the other to go forward.
     An email sent to Hewlett Packard was not returned as of press time. Oracle’s press team did not retain a voicemail requesting comment.

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