The row concerned a SAP subsidiary called TomorrowNow, which (perhaps in a bid to get tomorrow's customers now) managed to get its hands on 'thousands of copies' of support documents and software from Oracle, apparently by posing as a client. To add insult to injury, according to Oracle, it then resold that software, plus related services, to some 358 of Oracle's own customers. Oracle sued for a massive $1.65bn in compensation - and although it hasn't done quite that well, the court has clearly come down on its side after the four-year legal battle. This fine would be a record for any copyright infringement case, and is equivalent to more than half of SAP's entire profits last year.
As you might expect, the German company says it's 'disappointed' and plans to appeal. It's not contesting liability - but it's clearly stunned by the size of the penalty. It had argued to the court that its penalty should be a relatively measly $40m, and it's only put aside around $160m to cover the cost of the legal battle. So if it is eventually forced to stump up the cash, it really will make a big hole in its balance sheet. However, we'll believe it when we see it - it's clearly planning to explore every legal avenue, so it's quite possible they'll settle on a lower sum. Either way, Oracle is unlikely to see a penny for a while yet.
Some will argue that it serves SAP right: its subsidiary cheated, and this sends out exactly the right message about the consequences thereof. On the other hand, this does seem a huge sum - it seems pretty unlikely that Oracle missed out on $1.3bn profits from 350-odd customers. And SAP argues that it's done everything possible since discovering the theft - it accepted liability, apologised, and offered to fully compensate Oracle for any losses. So does it still deserve a record fine for the actions of a rogue subsidiary?