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Rimini Street verdict leaves third-party maintenance questions

The intellectual property lawsuit between Oracle and third-party maintenance company Rimini Street ended with a win for Oracle, but looming questions remain unanswered.

The long-running lawsuit between Oracle and third-party maintenance provider Rimini Street Inc. reached a verdict on Oct. 13, but left industry observers without answers to the most pressing questions stemming from the case.

A Federal Court of Nevada jury awarded Oracle $50 million in damages for copyright infringement, far less than the $254.9 million Oracle wanted. On its end, Rimini Street felt it should pay $10 million at most. Seth Ravin, CEO of Las Vegas-based Rimini Street, was liable for $14 million of the damages personally, the jury ruled.

While some hoped that the conclusion of this case would lead to greater clarification for the role of the third-party maintenance provider -- essentially, the question of how much support services a third-party vendor can offer, without interfering in the software's licensing and compliance -- the verdict stuck strictly to the copyright issue between the two parties.

Providing maintenance is important to Oracle's business. Oracle's customers pay an additional percentage on top of the license price for Oracle's updates and support. Companies like Rimini Street can't provide the updates, but they can handle the support for a lower fee.

A long history of third-party maintenance debate

Third-party maintenance has always been a contentious topic at Oracle.

Oracle said it plans to seek an injunction from the judge to bar Rimini Street from "continuing to operate its business based on massive infringement," according to The Wall Street Journal. Rimini Street claimed that, in July 2014, it stopped using the software it had acquired illegally from Oracle and had ceased violating Oracle's copyrights with its business practices, making the injunction "meaningless." A second lawsuit is already pending.

The legal battle between Oracle and Rimini Street began in 2010, when Oracle alleged that Rimini Street violated Oracle's copyrights by downloading software and support materials from password-protected servers. In 2014, the U.S. District Court of Nevada in Las Vegas ruled in favor of Oracle and concluded that Rimini Street had engaged in large-scale theft of Oracle intellectual property.

Third-party maintenance has always been a contentious topic at Oracle. Since maintenance fees are a big part of Oracle's earnings, it's in Oracle's best interest to provide the maintenance to customers itself. This isn't the first time that Oracle has sued a third-party maintenance vendor. In 2007, Oracle sued third-party maintenance company TomorrowNow Inc., another company run by Ravin, and shut the company down in 2008.

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