A judge handed Oracle Corp. another pretrial victory in its feud with rival Rimini Street Inc. this week, ruling that Rimini Street infringed Oracle’s copyrights and that Oracle didn’t defame Rimini Street by calling it an IP thief. The ruling chips away at the obstacles confronting Oracle and its lawyers at Bingham McCutchen and Boies, Schiller & Flexner as they inch toward a long-awaited trial.
In a 32-page ruling issued on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks in Reno ruled that Rimini Street engaged in copyright infringement by making copies of Oracle’s Relational Database Management Software (the “Oracle Database”). The judge rejected Rimini Street’s defenses that it had an implied license to the software and that Oracle unreasonably delayed in claiming infringement.
In the second part of Hicks’ ruling, the judge ruled for Oracle on Rimini Street’s defamation claim. Rimini Street is miffed that an Oracle spokesperson publicly accused the company of “massive theft,” but the judge found that Oracle’s comment was truthful because he’d already found Rimini Street liable for copyright infringement in a prior ruling.
“The semantic distinction between copyright infringement and theft does not matter in this instance,” Hicks wrote. “Courts consistently hold that the imprecise use of legal terminology does not qualify as defamation when the terminology provides the gist of the actual claims.”
Oracle licenses software that helps businesses with routine operations like payroll. These software products, which include PeopleSoft and J.D. Edwards, run on Oracle Database. Oracle also contracts with business to provide ongoing software support and upgrades.
Established in 2005, Rimini Street provides support for PeopleSoft licensees that undercuts Oracle’s prices. Rimini Street’s CEO, Seth Ravin, founded a similar company called TomorrowNow in the late 1990s that was acquired by SAP AG for $10 million. SAP ended up shuttering TomorrowNow amid a major copyright battle with Oracle, which is ongoing at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Oracle sued Rimini Street in 2010, alleging copyright infringement, fraud, unjust enrichment and other causes of action. The software giant accused Rimini Street of using its cutovers’ credentials to engage in widespread unlicensed copying of Oracle software. Rimini Street raised a slew of counterclaims, and Ravin has publicly accused Oracle of trying to stifle competition.
Since the litigation began, Rimini Street has expanded its workforce and its customer base. But it’s not doing as well in court. In February, Hicks ruled for Oracle on its claim that Rimini Street infringed its PeopleSoft copyrights. And now, thanks to Wednesday’s ruling, Oracle has also prevailed on its infringement claims relating to Oracle Database.
Barring an appellate reversal, those rulings guarantee Oracle at least a partial victory. But the case isn’t over. Hicks has so far declined to grant Oracle summary judgment on some of its remaining claims, so they’ll likely be the subject of a planned jury trial. In Wednesday’s order, Hicks asked the parties to propose some possible trial dates.
Oracle’s lead counsel, Bingham partner Geoffrey Howard, said in a statement that his client “looks forward to holding Rimini Street and Seth Ravin accountable at trial for the damages caused by their misconduct.”
Rimini Street lead counsel B. Trent Webb of Shook, Hardy & Bacon didn’t return a call seeking comment.