Ellison gets a grilling at Oracle-SAP trial

Oracle's CEO said he would have charged SAP $4 billion to license the software stolen by its TomorrowNow subsidiary

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison faced tough questioning on the witness stand Monday morning about the effects of TomorrowNow's intellectual-property theft on his company.

Dressed soberly in a dark jacket and black turtleneck, Ellison was questioned first by David Boies, an attorney for Oracle, and then was cross-examined for about 40 minutes by Greg Lanier, an attorney for SAP, whose now-defunct subsidiary TomorrowNow is at the heart of the lawsuit. Oracle sued SAP after it discovered TomorrowNow had been stealing applications and support software from an Oracle website. SAP has acknowledged the theft and the trial is about how much it should pay Oracle in damages.

Ellison's testimony was intended to show how valuable his company considered the stolen software to be and how much Oracle would therefore have charged SAP to license it legally.

Boies asked Ellison what factors Oracle would have taken into account when determining the price for such a license. "There's one overwhelming consideration and that's how many PeopleSoft and JD Edwards customers we would have lost to SAP," Ellison replied.

He told the court that TomorrowNow's services could have enabled SAP to steal as many as 30 percent of Oracle's PeopleSoft customers and 10 percent of its Siebel customers. Based on the price Oracle paid for those companies, SAP would have had to pay Oracle US$4 billion for a license, Ellison said.

But under cross-examination, Lanier disputed Ellison's assertion that Oracle felt threatened by the TomorrowNow acquisition or that it was worried about losing customers to SAP. No evidence has been submitted to support those assertions, he said.

"There's not a single public or private, internal or external PowerPoint, speech, slide, e-mail or scribble on a napkin that says any of that, is there?" Lanier asked Ellison.

"I had those discussions with people but I don't tend to write those things down," Ellison replied.

Lanier also noted that only 358 of Oracle's 10,000 PeopleSoft customers switched to SAP after the TomorrowNow acquisition.

"You don't know why any specific Oracle customer left Oracle for TomorrowNow, do you Mr. Ellison?" Lanier asked.

"No, I don't know the specifics for any given customer," Ellison replied.

And 358 is "nowhere near 30 percent of PeopleSoft's customers, is it?" Lanier asked.

"No," Ellison replied.

Judge Phyllis Hamilton's courtroom on the third floor of the U.S. District Court in Oakland, California, was crowded when Ellison was called to the stand at about 8:30 a.m., with an overflow of a few reporters sitting on the floor taking notes.

Ellison identified himself as "Lawrence Joseph Ellison" and said he was born in 1944 on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. He moved to the Bay Area in 1964, he said, and founded Oracle in 1977.

Oracle has about another week to present its case, after which SAP will have two weeks to present its defense. The jury is expected to decide by the end of the month how much in damages SAP should pay.

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