Quick Take: When Larry Ellison Gets Stupid

Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) CEO Larry Ellison's decision to shell out billions for companies like PeopleSoft and Siebel several years ago created considerable skepticism among observers. In the end, Ellison proved that his acquisition spree was hardly crazy -- it turned out to be a brilliant strategic move that helped Oracle rejuvenate its growth. That said, Ellison's still prone to fits of seeming insanity, as his lawsuit against archrival SAP (NYSE: SAP  ) demonstrates.

Oracle is accusing SAP of "corporate theft on a grand scale" after SAP division TomorrowNow allegedly downloaded more than 10,000 documents from Oracle's support site, sometimes using fake email addresses to gain access. Attorneys from Oracle and SAP met in court this week, where Judge Martin Jenkins set the trial date for Feb. 9, 2009.

From what I can tell, the charges are fairly petty stuff, since TomorrowNow didn't take source codes, customer lists, or other critical intellectual property. Besides, Oracle's security features seem to have been laughable -- had I used a fake email address, even I could have probably gotten in.

To me, the case looks like yet another way for Ellison to pester SAP and score some PR points. That's fine, but Oracle still must deal with non-SAP competitors like IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , Red Hat (NYSE: RHT  ) , and Cognos (Nasdaq: COGN  ) . Perhaps Ellison should spend more time getting customers, integrating acquisitions, and building new technologies, and less time devising legal strategies for an ultimately minor case.

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