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Oracle’s suit against SAP could drag in partners

The news that Oracle sued SAP shocked the IT industry yesterday, and the dust hasn’t begun to settle yet. In addition to SAP and its wholly-owned subsidiary TomorrowNow, Oracle named 50 “Doe” defendants who are still unknown but may include channel partners such as systems integrators and resellers.

TomorrowNow provides third-party support for Oracle products, especially its PeopleSoft and JD Edwards lines of applications, at half the cost Oracle charges. It also works with several consultancies and systems integrators to provide support on their behalf. About a dozen or so of these are smaller, regional-level firms, said Bob Geib, vice president of sales at TomorrowNow, in an interview with earlier this month.

Because many of those firms fear retaliation from Oracle for providing support through TomorrowNow, Geib said, “many, many of our efforts with partners are what I would call under-the-radar opportunities.”

It is unclear whether any of those partners may be dragged into the suit. But one clause in Oracle’s filing reads:

“Oracle is currently unaware of the true names and capacities of Does 1 through 50, inclusive, whether individual, partnership, corporation, unincorporated association, or otherwise, and therefore sues these defendants by such fictitious names. Oracle will amend this Complaint to allege their true names and capacities when ascertained.”

According to the suit, TomorrowNow’s “cut rate support” was made possible, at least in part, from thousands of illegal downloads of software, patches, documentation and other information made by TomorrowNow using logins provided by Oracle customers whose service agreements were about to expire.

The nature of those service agreements does not allow Oracle’s customers to share those downloads with third parties, and many customers downloaded information they themselves were not authorized to access, Oracle chrged.

TomorrowNow was founded by former PeopleSoft employees and was acquired by SAP in January 2005, at about the same time Oracle announced it would acquire PeopleSoft. Oracle claims in the suit that the timing is not coincidental, but does not provide further evidence.

Oracle and SAP both declined to comment further on the lawsuit as of Friday evening.

Yuval Shavit

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