Judge overturns $1.3B award to Oracle against SAP

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) ? A federal judge has overturned a $1.3 billion verdict against business software maker SAP, calling it “grossly excessive.”

The ruling Thursday is a major victory for SAP AG and an unexpected setback for Oracle Corp., which filed the case.

Oracle’s outspoken CEO Larry Ellison had used evidence that an SAP subsidiary had stolen software and customer-support documents from password-protected Oracle websites as a platform to slam his longtime nemesis.

The jury award in November capped a circus-like trial in which Ellison taunted not only SAP but also its former CEO, Leo Apotheker, who is now CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co., another Oracle rival.

Oracle, based in Redwood Shores, Calif., is the leading maker of database software, which helps companies organize their information. Its aggressive expansion into business applications has forced Oracle into a faceoff with SAP, the leader in that space.

Late last year, a jury found that SAP plundered software and documents from Oracle’s secured websites and awarded Oracle $1.3 billion in damages.

SAP admitted that a now-shuttered subsidiary was secretly siphoning off instruction manuals and technical specifications for Oracle’s software. But its lawyers argued that Oracle’s claims of injury were exaggerated.

Judge Phyllis Hamilton in in U.S. District Court in Oakland, Calif., the site of the three-week trial, said the penalty was “contrary to the weight of the evidence” in the high-profile case.

Oracle’s stock fell 23 cents, or 0.8 percent, to close Thursday at $27.84. SAP’s stock fell 75 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $53.76.