HPE wants Oracle to pay US$3 billion for breach of Itanium contract

A jury trial in a long-running dispute between the two companies begins this week

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise is asking a jury to award the company US$3billion from Oracle after the database giant stopped supporting HPE's Itanium-based hardware, even though it allegedly signed a contract to do so.

A jury trial in the 5-year-old legal dispute between the tech giants is scheduled to begin Tuesday, nearly four years after a California judge first ruled that Oracle must continue porting its software to HPE's Itanium platform. The new trial is scheduled in Santa Clara Superior Court in California.

HP, which has since split into two companies, sued Oracle in 2011, saying the database company's decision to stop offering future versions of its popular database software for Itanium violated a deal the partners signed in 2010. Oracle argued parts of the deal were "a corporate handshake" and didn't impose long-term support obligations.

Oracle's decision to drop support for HP products using the Itanium chip had a huge impact on sales, HPE has argued. Oracle's decision led to $1.7 billion in pretrial lost sales at HP/HPE and an estimated $1.3 billion in future lost sales, HPE's lawyers have estimated.

The case revolves around "Oracle's failure to live up to a clear and simple promise to work with HP in the interests of both companies' mutual customers," HP lawyers wrote in the original complaint. In an eight-month period, Oracle went "from arm-in-arm 'partnership' with Hewlett-Packard to bitter antagonist."

The damages phase of the trial was delayed after Oracle filed a so-called anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motion that said HP was infringing on its free speech.

Oracle's lawyers argued that, after the first phase of the trial, "HP received exactly what it sought: Oracle issued a press release announcing that it would deliver future software for Itanium on the same schedule as its software for other platforms."

HPE's request to the jury in the second phase of the trial is that it find Oracle violated an ill-defined "something" in an agreement between the two companies, Oracle's lawyers wrote in a pretrial brief.

HPE is asking the jury to support "new and unsubstantiated" contract breaches not brought up in the first trial, Oracle's lawyers wrote. "HP intends to assert a number of eleventh-hour theories of liability, even though it claims no damages for them," they wrote.

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