SAP used a US court hearing on 8 January to demand that Oracle reveal the profit margins for its PeopleSoft and JD Edwards support offerings. If Oracle agrees, the disclosure could put the firm at a serious competitive disadvantage, according to analysts.
The demand is the latest twist in the TomorrowNow lawsuit, a high-profile feud between SAP and Oracle that began in 2007.
TomorrowNow provides support for Oracle's PeopleSoft and JD Edwards software operations, and was acquired by rival SAP in 2005 in an effort to convert Oracle customers to SAP.
Oracle had accused TomorrowNow of corporate espionage, which SAP has acknowledged to a limited extent. The accusations have since grown to include copyright infringement.
"To Oracle, this information that SAP is requesting is very sensitive, particularly because it happens to be about two applications that are not doing so well at the moment," said 451 Group analyst China Martens.
The profit data would give an advantage to other players in the third-party maintenance market, such as Salesforce, Martens explained.
TomorrowNow was accused of using customer information obtained through its support options to access Oracle databases and steal support information and, by extension, customers.
SAP argued in a Joint Discovery Conference Statement presented at the hearing that if Oracle reveals the profits it has made on its support offerings over the years, the courts will have an easier time in determining the extent to which it lost customers to its rival.
"Oracle has refused to provide the discovery that may allow defendants to determine (or at least make a reasonable estimate of) Oracle's profitability on those product lines," noted the statement.
"Defendants therefore seek to compel discovery of the financial data necessary to attempt to determine Oracle's actual profit margins for the PeopleSoft and JD Edwards products and support services."
However, Martens believes that Oracle is unlikely to comply with SAP's demand. "There is no way Oracle will do it. It would be quite out of character, " she said.
Although SAP is probably trying to obtain specific details ahead of the trial that begins in February, Oracle has been trying to drag the court case out since it started.
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