There’s been another small eruption in a long-dormant legal battle between Oracle and Rimini Street, a company that provides third-party support services to Oracle customers.
The dispute concerns Rimini’s use of Oracle’s files to support their joint customers, and could put off companies considering using Rimini’s alternative to Oracle’s support for legacy PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, and Siebel products.
In the latest judgment, delivered on January 12, 2022, the US District Court for the District of Nevada found Rimini in contempt of a 2018 court ruling on five issues, ordering Rimini to pay a fine of US$630,000 and Oracle’s costs. For five other issues that Oracle had raised, the court found no case to answer.
Oracle general counsel Dorian Daley hyped up the ruling, saying, “Our rights have been vindicated once again, and the court recognises Rimini as a bad actor that violates federal law.”
A statement from Rimini, predictably, sought to minimise the ruling, saying, “Despite extensive discovery by Oracle that commenced over two years ago and included millions of pages of documents, only 10 items were ultimately before the Court. … The Court ruled in favor of Rimini Street on five.”
Rimini is considering whether to appeal the ruling on the other five issues.
What Rimini did
Rimini’s business model is that it supports customers by accessing Oracle code and data files to which its customers, as Oracle licensees, are legally entitled.
In its January 2010 lawsuit, however, Oracle alleged that Rimini would log on to Oracle’s password-protected technical support websites using one customer’s credentials, using automated tools to download files in excess of the customer’s authorisation under its license agreement that Rimini would then use to help other customers.
In April that year Rimini filed a countersuit, saying that Oracle knew full well that Rimini was accessing Oracle’s systems on its customers’ behalf with their authorisation — and Oracle’s cooperation. It defended its use of automated tools to download the files, saying that Oracle did not itself provide adequate tools to manage such large volumes of materials.
The case rumbled on for over eight years, culminating in an October 2015 ruling finding that Rimini had infringed on Oracle’s copyrights and awarding Oracle US$50 million in damages — about one-fifth of what it had asked for.
That wasn’t the end of it, though. Rimini got some of the court’s original findings overturned, and in March 2018 obtained a refund of US$21.5 million from Oracle.
Oracle, however, persuaded the court to grant it a permanent injunction against Rimini to prevent further breaches of its copyright. The court ordered Rimini not to reproduce, prepare derivative works from, or distribute Oracle’s software or documentation for its PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Siebel, and Oracle Database products, other than to serve a specific customer whose license from Oracle allowed such use.
What Rimini did next
In April 2019, the court agreed to Oracle’s request to investigate whether Rimini had been complying with that. After a year-long discovery process, Oracle identified 10 issues with Rimini’s use of its files. Many of them involved annual updates to Oracle’s software to handle changes to tax laws and rate changes.
In one, for example, a customer emailed a PeopleSoft patch file to Rimini, and when Rimini’s technician inspected the file that put the company in breach of the terms of Oracle’s license, the injunction, and of a Rimini policy brought in to ensure its compliance with the injunction. Even though the file was shared by the customer, the court found that Rimini did not show substantial compliance with the order, and that its new procedures were inadequate.
In another, Rimini tested a fix for one customer in a development environment belonging to another of its customers, and then sent it to other customers, too. The court found this was in breach of the injunction’s prohibition on cross use.