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Judge partially dismisses Oracle lawsuit against Solaris support providers

A federal judge has tossed out part of a lawsuit Oracle filed against third-party support providers Terix and Maintech, in what could set a precedent for similar cases.

Terix and Maintech persuaded customers to cancel their support agreements with Oracle by “falsely representing” they could legally provide hardware and Solaris OS service and support for less money, according to Oracle’s lawsuit filed last July in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

”While a customer may choose to engage a third party instead of Oracle to provide support services on Oracle hardware, under such circumstances neither the third party nor the customer may access or use Oracle’s support website,” Oracle said. “In particular, neither the third party nor the customer may use official, Oracle-authored Solaris updates to support the Oracle software running the hardware.”

Terix and Maintech told customers they were allowed to receive Solaris Updates even without an active hardware support contract with Oracle because of their licenses to use Solaris in conjunction with a purchase of Oracle hardware, according to Oracle.

The companies “either obtained access credentials to Oracle’s secure support website under false pretenses or directed others with access credentials to download Oracle’s intellectual property unlawfully,” Oracle claimed.

In a ruling earlier this month, Judge Paul Grewal dismissed Oracle’s claim that Terix and Maintech engaged in software trafficking.

Terix and Maintech argued they can “not be held liable for merely trafficking by receiving credentials alone,” Grewal wrote. “On this score, the court agrees with Defendants. Oracle has not alleged that Defendants transferred or otherwise disposed of its customer’s login credentials. Instead, Defendants are alleged only to have received the login credentials from their customer and used the credentials themselves.”

The case is far from concluded, however, as Grewal did not dismiss other Oracle claims against Terix and Maintech, including for breach of contract, copyright infringement, unfair competition and false advertising.

An Oracle spokeswoman didn’t respond to a request for comment on Grewal’s ruling.

Oracle has seen hardware revenue fall consistently since its purchase of Sun Microsystems, but hardware support revenue has been rising.

Vendors such as Oracle derive handsome profits from support and software maintenance revenues and are loath to see that money chipped away by third parties.

Oracle has also sued companies such as Rimini Street, which provides third-party support for Oracle and SAP applications. Rimini Street’s CEO is Seth Ravin , a co-founder of former SAP subsidiary TomorrowNow, which offered support for Oracle applications.

Oracle sued SAP in 2007 and ultimately won a sizable judgment, but the case is not yet resolved.

Rimini Street, Terix, Maintech and others have maintained they operate within the legal boundaries of customers’ rights.

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