Now and then, we are privileged to see the sort of thing on a grand scale that we used to see on the schoolyard when we were children. The sight of a bully, posturing, and possibly beating up on someone, for all the world to see. The world, in this case, really is the world, as the news is carried on PC World, for all that can use the internet and read.

The reason for the kicking sand, posturing, and threats is a good one, if it is real. What we are not sure of is whether the injury is imaginary or not.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison on Tuesday vowed to prove that new Hewlett-Packard CEO Leo Apotheker was in on a scheme to steal large amounts of Oracle software, when Apotheker was CEO of software maker SAP.

"A major portion of this theft occurred while Mr. Apotheker was CEO of SAP," Ellison alleged in a statement issued by Oracle.

He said Oracle will offer evidence that Apotheker was involved when the trial starts next Monday in a federal court in Oakland, California.

HP did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Oracle is seeking billions of dollars in damages in the case. It has accused SAP and its TomorrowNow subsidiary of stealing thousands of bits of software, including big fixes and patches, as well as other support material from Oracle in order to provide reduced-price maintenance service for Oracle customers.

SAP has admitted to illegal downloads from an Oracle website and the trial is expected to focus on how much the German software maker should pay Oracle in damages.

With a partial admission of guilt, there probably is not much doubt that the rest of Ellison’s accusations are correct, for we can also presume that Oracle doesn’t simply sue others for no reason. But the rest will have to be proven in court, which in these kinds of cases, is more difficult than simply presenting facts.

SAP has maintained that Apotheker and other top executives did not know about the illegal downloads initially and then moved to stop them once they discovered the problem. Oracle has maintained that SAP executives knew about the issue for years.

While this plays out on a grand stage in the computer world, it probably will not make much news on the television or radio until the decision is reached, which may be years. When one is reached, however, we might be seeing the end of one software company, and the richening of another; one not in real need of much wealth.

The one good thing in all of this – since the court trial will be held in Oakland, and not in some court in backwater Texas, the chances of a fir outcome are much better.


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