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Oracle appeal delays damages phase of HP trial

The second phase of the HP-Oracle courtroom tilt over software support for Intel's Itanium chips was delayed until next week as Oracle appealed a denial of a motion to throw out the case.

Oracle claimed in the motion that HP's insistence that the database giant continue to support Itanium was a violation of its free speech rights. But a California state judge ruled that Oracle did not file the motion in a timely manner. Now, the second phase of the trial to determine whether Oracle was in breach of contract and potential damages, which was set to begin this week, must await a decision on Oracle's appeal of the ruling from an appellate judge.

The trial is set to resume on 15 April.

"As this case has progressed, it has become increasingly clear that Oracle breached its contractual commitment to HP and ignored its repeated promises of support to our shared customers for the purpose of driving hardware sales from Itanium to Sun servers. It is therefore not surprising that Oracle would make every attempt to postpone the trial and extend the uncertainty in the marketplace by filing an Anti-SLAPP motion and immediately appealing when the trial court properly found that the motion was untimely," an HP legal spokesman said in a statement.

Oracle did not comment on the day's legal events.

Hewlett-Packard sued Oracle in June 2011 over the latter company's decision in March of that year to pull the plug on software development for Intel's 64-bit Itanium chip, leaving HP as the chief developer of Itanium-based products. HP claimed Oracle was in breach of a contract to continue supporting Itanium which had been arrived at as part of the two companies' settlement over the move to Oracle by former HP CEO Mark Hurd.

In the war of words over the dispute, Oracle accused HP of knowing of Intel's plans to scale back Itanium production months before Oracle did. Later, Oracle said the Itanium lawsuit was nothing but a "publicity stunt."

The case went to trial in June 2012, with HP winning the first phase. Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg ruled in favoUr of HP's claim that Oracle is contractually obligated to develop software for HP's Itanium server products and ordered the company to continue to support Itanium.

The damages phase in front of a jury was set to begin this week, with HP at one point seeking up to $4 billion (£2.6 billion) in damages from Oracle following the latter company's decision more than a year ago to stop porting new software to HP's Itanium servers. HP has since lowered its expectations of damages to $500 million (£326 million), according to Bloomberg.

"HP is disappointed that Oracle has elected to delay the trial of this case rather than have the merits of the parties' claims addressed and resolved by a jury. Nevertheless, we are confident that the Court of Appeal will find Oracle's Anti-SLAPP motion to be baseless and that it will affirm the trial judge's ruling that the motion is untimely. As before, we look forward to presenting our case to a jury and allowing it to decide whether Oracle breached the contract at issue and what amount HP should be awarded in damages," the HP spokesperson said.