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Six years later, HPE and Oracle quietly shut door on Solaris lawsuit

Bunfight over support for proprietary Unix operating system ends with a confidential whimper

HPE and Oracle have settled their long-running legal case over alleged copyright infringement regarding Solaris software updates for HPE customers, but it looks like the nature of the settlement is going to remain under wraps.

The pair this week informed [PDF] the judge overseeing the case that they'd reached a mutual settlement and asked for the case to be dismissed "with prejudice" – ie, permanently. The settlement agreement is confidential, and its terms won't be made public.

The case goes back to at least 2016, when Oracle filed a lawsuit against HPE over the rights to support the Solaris operating system. HPE and a third company, software support outfit Terix, were accused of offering Solaris support for customers while the latter was not an authorised Oracle partner.

Big Red's complaint claimed HPE had falsely represented to customers that it and Terix could lawfully provide Solaris Updates and other support services at a lower cost than Oracle, and that the two had worked together to provide customers with access to such updates.

The suit against HPE was thrown out of court in 2019, but revived in 2021 when a judge denied HPE's motion for a summary judgement in the case. Terix settled its case in 2015 for roughly $58 million.

Last year, the case went to court and in June a jury found HPE guilty of providing customers with Solaris software updates without Oracle's permission, awarding the latter $30 million for copyright infringement.

But that wasn't the end of the matter, because HPE was back a couple of months later to appeal the verdict, claiming the complaint by Oracle that it had directly infringed copyrights with regard to Solaris were not backed by sufficient evidence.

This hinged on HPE claiming that Oracle had failed to prove that any of the patches and updates in question were actually protected by copyright, but also that Oracle could not prove HPE had any control over Terix in its purported infringement activities.

Oracle for its part filed a motion asking the court for a permanent injunction against HPE to prevent it copying or distributing the Solaris software, firmware or support materials, except as allowed by Oracle.

Now it appears that the two companies have come to some mutually acceptable out-of-court arrangement, as often happens in acrimonious and long-running legal disputes.

We asked HPE for information regarding the settlement of the case, but the company would only comment that “we are pleased to settle this matter to the satisfaction of all parties involved.”

Oracle was also approached for details, and we will update this article if we get a response.

It isn’t all one-way when it comes to legal action between HPE and Oracle. Last year, the US Supreme Court declined to allow Oracle to overturn a ruling ordering the company to pay $3 billion in damages to HPE in another long-running case over Oracle’s support for Itanium servers that dated back to before HPE became HPE. ®

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