It's not common business practice to launch verbal volleys at your competitors in an earnings report. But Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) is now doing exactly that on a regular basis.

I was going to say that last night's report was no different -- but it was. This time, the rancor just oozed between the lines on my screen. Take this statement by Oracle president Charles Phillips on the company's rivalry with SAP AG (NYSE:SAP).

"Over the last twelve months, Oracle's application new software license revenues grew at a rate of 32%, while SAP's growth slowed to 10% in their most recent fiscal year," he said. OK, a simple observation based on hard data. But then he unleashed this zinger. "Our strategy of combining innovation with acquisitions is clearly beating SAP's strategy of trying to build everything themselves using a 1970s-era proprietary programming language."


In the very next paragraph of the report, CEO Larry Ellison said that he's taking database market share from IBM (NYSE:IBM), since that rival "has been unable to match the performance and reliability of Oracle database grids."

These are the kinds of potshots you normally hear in marketing messages and on trade show floors -- not in SEC filings. I said in advance that there would be fireworks of this kind, but even Ellison usually saves it all for the accompanying conference call, rather than the official realm of the financial report itself.

This is starting to turn ugly, frankly speaking. Oracle has some fine numbers to present, and there's no need to resort to hitting under the belt like this. Maybe it's OK on occasion, but not as a general habit. I can smell the frenzied activity in the legal departments at IBM and SAP -- "Is this slander? Defamation? It's certainly bad taste. Can we sue?"

Maybe it's how a larger-than-life character like Ellison gets his kicks, I don't know. But the Bronx cheers are now coming from his president and CFO, too -- and I always thought Safra Katz was such a lady. This could be contagious. Whatever the case, I'll applaud the results for the year and quarter, but disagree with the presentation methods.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. You can check outAnders' holdings if you like, and Foolish disclosure always has the polite thing to say.