back to article Larry Ellison, Oracle and litigation: A business that's not a business

Oracle's chalked up yet another stunning courtroom loss. In May, the database giant failed in its bid to have Google stump up $9bn on Android and stake a sweeping claim over APIs and how they're broadly used. And now, this week, Oracle was ordered to pay Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) $3bn for reneging on a commitment to …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Larry's always preferred to shake-down customers first and if that didn't work, sue them - the same for competitors. As a sometime customer of theirs, I've stood in wonder as my management forked over millions of $USD for little, if any, value simply out of fear of the Oracle legal machine. I fully expect Larry to prolong the HPE suit until HPE settles out of disgust and he'll keep sniping at Google until long past time to give up. Junkyard dogs have nothing on Larry.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Is Oracle primarily a database vendor or is it an entirely legal extortion scheme?

      It's notable that discussion of Oracle always seems to revolve around its sales and customer retention practices rather than its products. Doesn't this say something about the company?

      The title "a business that's not a business" reminded me of a question I've asked more than once. Namely, whether Oracle should be considered primarily a database vendor, or whether its well known modus operandi- i.e. locking customers in to a given product, and once they're dependent on it, holding them to ransom (albeit quite legally) and squeezing all the money they can out of them- actually *is* the business, with the software products merely a convenient means to that end.

      I'm sure they started out as a "genuine"- if dickish- business but I'm guessing at some stage the infamously aggressive and amoral Ellison realised it was more profitable to let the tail wag the dog?

  2. asdf Silver badge

    >And now, this week, Oracle was ordered to pay Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) $3bn

    Wow that is probably more than HP made total on its Itanium misadventure.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Itanium Sales

      For some reason articles boasting huge Itanium sales do not plaster the internet, but the odd figure can be dug up here and there. Itanium servers do not sell in anything like the quantities of X86_64, but the do sell for vast prices. The figures I found show HP's total Itanium server revenue was well over $3B. Their average profit margin is quite low, but servers were one of their high margin products. If we assume Itanium servers had a similar high margin, then about $3B profit is quite possible.

      The damages depend on what extra profit HP would have made if Oracle had met their contractual obligations. If Oracle had maintained a carefully pessimised version of their database for Itanium, and licensed it at triple the cost of builds for other architectures they could have done almost the same amount of damage with much less risk of paying out for breach of contract.

      1. asdf Silver badge

        Re: Itanium Sales

        HP sunk a boatload of money into developing Itanium and have been subsidizing Intel throughout the whole process. My guess is they made a small fortune on Itanium by starting with much larger fortune.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, if HP gets paid out on this lawsuit, they are lucky. Itanium was dead regardless. Even so, massive mistake on Oracle's part. If they would have just done nothing and waited Itanium out, it would be done by now anyway.

  3. TVU Silver badge

    I think it's a bad sign when any company appears to go down the route of litigation to try to gain income rather than innovate and win new customers with good services and products. The last lot try that stunt was the SCO Group and it didn't end well for them.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      @TVU - Winning long term customer loyalty is hard and takes real work. It does have the advantage of gaining consistent income and profits. Suing is a short term game that leaves current and potential customers a vile taste and destroys loyalty.

      Companies fail for many reasons but losing customer loyalty is a kiss of death. A company in trouble, if they have enough loyal customers might survive financial troubles; loyal customers might still give them a chance. But a company where they burned the customers will not get the break.

      1. asdf Silver badge

        Can't resist

        >But a company where they burned the customers will not get the break

        Unless they are a bank and then they can just hit the taxpayers up for another bailout.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    That's still going on?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oracle?

      Yeah, they're still going. They just got very bitter and ditched their scruples after losing the ITV teletext franchise in the early nineties.

      Did you know that Ceefax now run a chain of coffee shops in the North of England?

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It isn't IT that attracts huge legal disputes, it's IP.

    IP is a revenue stream for work already done and so people argue over it like the big pot of money that, in practical terms, it is.

    Businesses which sell goods and services that require current effort to deliver have less cash flow and so don't spend nearly so much on lawyers.

    The software business is much closer to the music industry than it is to other IT companies in this respect. While both are grubby businesses it's not a coincidence that the largest firms are the ones that aggressively defend their IP.

  6. MrMur

    Clearly Oracle doesn't have enough more lawyers... they should get more... and clearly the ones they have aren't good enough... they should get more expensive ones!

  7. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

    "Clearly Oracle doesn't have enough more lawyers... they should get more... and clearly the ones they have aren't good enough... they should get more expensive ones!"

    Lawyers in the US are the modern equivalent of armed conflict. In Russia businesses often settle disputes with hitmen, so lawyers are actually an improvement.

    If the Second Amendment was itself amended to "in order that shakedowns shall be well regulated, the right of CEOs to arm themselves with lawyers shall not be infringed", it might be an improvement.

    1. Snowy

      If the Second Amendment was itself amended to "in order that shakedowns shall be well regulated, the right of CEOs to arm wrestle other CEO's shall not be infringed", it might be an better improvement.

  8. Peter Clarke 1

    Truth In Error

    "Litigation is part of doing business, but aside from God Larry Ellison is possibly the only person at Oracle who knows the true size of Oracle's total legal bill over these last years."

    It's probably how Larry thinks of himself but there should be a comma separating him from being a deity

  9. Oengus Silver badge

    Shades of SCO

    The Google case, a different type of suit, remember, seems dead – for now at least.

    I think this case will roll on like the SCO case. Ths only difference is that both sides have cash to continue the fight (at the moment).

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Oracle always used to win these lawsuits.... Now they cannot even convince a jury that Itanic was dead regardless of what Oracle did or did not do. They were steamrolled in that Google lawsuit as well, but they had to know that was a long shot... probably just hoping Google threw some cash at them to go away.

    1. The First Dave

      Re: True

      To be fair to Oracle, Google blatantly stole Java, (in the sense that MPAA et al mean 'stole') so it is quite a surprise to me that Oracle's lawyers weren't able to get a result.

  11. oneeye

    The FBI is investigating Oracle !

    Oracles being sued by the State of Oregon over the failed Health care exchange they screwed up.

    And this from the Wiki page :

    In March 2014, the FBI announced it was launching an investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing related to the failed development of the site.[5] Subpoenas were issued in May 2014 by a grand jury. [18]

    The dispute has led to six lawsuits, including the main case playing out in Marion County Circuit Court, in which the state has accused Oracle of fraud and racketeering and is seeking $6.5 billion in damages.

    And I'm sure there is more crap coming from these lowlifes at Oracle. They have launched several counter suits. I for one, would love to see these Jackles locked up.

  12. Medixstiff

    Oracle is a bad word in our workplace.

    We've had so many meetings with them over the years on licensing, it's probably 10 times more convoluted than M$ licensing, which says a lot.

    I've never had to pull a CPU from a Server until we were told about certain gotcha's in Oracle licensing.

    Now that EBS is phased out, we are so, so happy and our budget looks healthy for once.

    Although I wouldn't be surprised if they try sue us for our backups that we tend to keep for 7 years for tax reasons (and because our Finance department are super an*l on keeping stuff for years)

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    After 10 years at Sun, I had the misfortune of being there when Oracle took it over. Oracle was the worst employer I had since graduating college. After 2 years, I fled screaming. I could talk for two hours on what a mess that company is, but I'll sum it up with: Anyone who finds themselves in any way dependent on Oracle, and is not executing plans to sever that dependency, is a fool.

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