Thursday, June 12, 2008

Legal basis for third-party ERP support industry

Some interesting information continues to dribble out of the Oracle vs. SAP/TomorrowNow lawsuit. Oracle filed the lawsuit last year alleging that SAP's TomorrowNow (TN) unit perpetuated massive theft of Oracle's intellectual property in delivering maintenance and support services to Oracle customers.

As part of the proceedings, SAP has released a 2002 letter from TN to PeopleSoft, in response to a previous letter from PeopleSoft alleging that TN's provision of third-party support was illegal.

The letter provides a good overview of the basis for third-party support. The letter takes particular exception to PeopleSoft's claim that TN is misleading customers about its ability to perform PeopleSoft upgrades and claims that it cannot provide such services because it is not "a certified member of PeopleSoft's alliance network."

This last claim attacks the very basis for a third-party support industry. So, TN took dead aim to counter that claim. The letter states, are undoubtedly aware, or certainly should be aware, that
(a) there is no requirement that a service provider join or be affiliated with any PeopleSoft-controlled alliance before servicing a customer's PeopleSoft software

(b) the tools for physically upgrading releases are built into the PeopleSoft software release itself and licensed with the software product to customers,

(c) customers who pay PeopleSoft for annual support services have rights to access and use PeoleSoft upgrade documentation and instructions made generally available to PeopleSoft's annual support services customers regardless of whether a customer chooses to hire PeopleSoft, a third-party, or internally and independently performs the upgrade process,

(d) many software upgrades are performed by customers without fee-based consulting assistance from either PeopleSoft or its certified alliance network members, and

(e) many software upgrades are performed by customers without their internal project staff of employees and/or contractors receiving any full education or training equivalent to PeopleSoft's "Consultant Certification" curriculum used by PeopleSoft internally for its fee-based consultants or the curriculum used for the fee-based consultants of its certified alliance network members.
Apparently, the letter had its intended effect, as PeopleSoft appears to have not pursued any further action toward TN after receiving this letter--that is, until Oracle (PeopleSoft's new owner) took action last year.

Oracle's current complaint against SAP (TN's new owner) and TN alleges conduct that goes far beyond the points in the 2002 letter. To my view, Oracle is not alleging that TN had no right to offer the services it offered. Only that it did so by misappropriating Oracle's intellectual property.

Whether that is true is a matter now for the court to decide.

Related posts
Rimini Street to provide third-party support for SAP
Court orders mediation in Oracle vs. SAP/TomorrowNow case
Oracle wants to broaden lawsuit against SAP and TomorrowNow
SAP lists TomorrowNow as a discontinued operation
TomorrowNow and the future of third-party support providers

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