Supremes agree to hear Rimini Street's bid to claw back costs in Oracle copyright battle

Top US court will resolve circuit courts' split over non-taxable costs

The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear third-party support outfit Rimini Street's appeal against Oracle in the long-running battle over copyright violations.

The court today granted the case, which should resolve a split between five circuit courts of appeal over how costs should be awarded in copyright cases.

The original battle was over the firm's decision to host Oracle software on its own servers, and copy some support materials and downloads to provide support services to enterprise customers that use Oracle software.

However, the appeal the Supreme Court has agreed to hear is focused on a much smaller area: whether the US Copyright Act's allowance of "full costs" counts non-taxable costs.

Rimini Street lost its initial case back in 2015, and was ordered to pay some $124m in fines and costs to Big Red. Since then, it has issued a string of appeals, including attempts aimed at reducing its overall bill.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals trimmed $50m off Oracle's take earlier this year, and Rimini is now focused on slicing off a further $12m – the amount it paid for Oracle's non-taxable costs.

However, the Ninth Court of Appeals denied Rimini's request, ruling that non-taxable costs can be awarded to the winning side.

Oracle tells US Supremes: Ignore Rimini Street. You don't need to review copyright case


But Rimini cast its gaze back further over the legal landscape, pointing to decisions from the Eight and Eleventh Circuits, which held that the allowance of "full costs" is limited to taxable costs under US codes.

Overall, Rimini said, there is a 3-2 circuit split across the five courts of appeals that have decided whether non-taxable costs are awardable in copyright cases, and used this split to persuade the Supremes to put it on their agenda.

"One party should not receive a multimillion-dollar windfall (and the other be forced to foot a large payout) solely based on the district in which suit is commenced," Rimini stated in its original filing to the court in June.

For its part, Oracle has said that the reason it was awarded these costs is because Rimini Street's behaviour during the case was "egregious".

Rimini Street is said to have ignored preservation orders early on in the case, which Oracle said resulted in Big Red footing a big bill to pull together the necessary evidence of infringement.

The database biz tried to use this, and other elements of alleged litigation misconduct – as it has also been described by judges during the battle – to argue that the case was a poor vehicle to resolve the circuit court split.

Rimini Street boss Seth Ravin countered that the availability of non-taxable costs doesn't turn on the conduct of the litigants – and it appears that the Supremes agree the case is at least worth hearing.

Meanwhile, Rimini is appealing a separate decision from another court in the case. The District Court in Nevada last month reissued an injunction against Rimini and ordered to firm to pay some $30m in attorneys' fees to Oracle. ®

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