HP-Oracle Itanium ruling becomes final, sets case toward jury trial

A California judge said Oracle is obligated to port future versions of its software to Itanium

A California judge's order that Oracle must keep porting its software to Hewlett-Packard's Itanium platform is now final, setting the stage for a jury trial over whether Oracle breached a contract with HP and what damages it may need to pay.

HP sued Oracle last year, claiming that the company's decision to stop offering future versions of its software for Itanium violated a deal the partners signed in 2010. Oracle argued that part of the deal was nothing more than "a corporate handshake" and didn't impose any obligations. The case dredged up a history of tension between HP and Oracle, which once were close partners but became rivals after Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems in early 2010. Oracle claims Itanium is dying and HP is hiding that fact.

On Aug. 1, Judge James Kleinberg of the Santa Clara County Superior Court, in San Jose, issued a preliminary ruling that the 2010 agreement was a contract and it obligated Oracle to keep porting its software to Itanium. His final ruling, issued on Tuesday, reaffirms that decision.

"Oracle's obligation to continue to offer its product suite on HP's Itanium-based server platforms lasts until such time as HP discontinues the sale of its Itanium-based servers," Kleinberg wrote. The deal covers all new versions of all the software products Oracle offered on Itanium at the time of the Sept. 20, 2010, agreement, which includes its database and several other key enterprise products.

In the final order, Kleinberg added a final point that the issues of breach of contract and monetary damages to HP would be resolved in the second phase of the trial.

Oracle had filed a strongly worded objection to Kleinberg's preliminary ruling in which the company said his interpretation of the 2010 agreement "imposes on Oracle an unprecedented obligation to support the dying Itanium technology -- a technology that everyone but HP is abandoning -- with future Oracle software for as long as HP wants, without ever again needing to pay Oracle anything. That outcome does not describe a business deal that anyone would make."

In the objection, Oracle also said it planned to appeal the outcome of the case. However, the company said it would comply with any injunction forcing it to continue software porting during the appeals process. Oracle was not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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