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Oracle Judge Takes Hard Line on Corporate Secrets

SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal judge began the process of separating sealed from unsealed corporate information as part of the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) antitrust case against Oracle .

District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker sifted through the requests of more than a dozen of Oracle's customers and rivals who aided the DoJ's suit to block Oracle from proceeding with its $7.7 billion takeover bid for PeopleSoft . The 65 or so documents under review contain detailed data on customers, competitive bids on contracts, pricing details, budgets and product information.

Judge Walker called for the hearing in federal court here to close any loose legal ends before rendering his decision. The judge is expected to file his opinion sometime before the end of the month -- perhaps early September. Insiders suggest the hearing indicates that the judge is preparing a draft of his opinion, which can only be based on publicly available information.

"If the information appears to have no bearing on the court's decision, then I will not unseal it," Judge Walker said. "If it is material to the court's decision and it is publicly sealed or redacted, I may overrule the request [and third parties may lose]. But the document may still not see the light of day."

The judge wasted no time in his decision and overruled Bearing Point's objections to releasing information about its strategic partnership with Microsoft.

The judge also opted to keep pricing information about consulting firm Accenture unsealed, as well as particulars about a new relationship between enterprise resource planning (ERP) leader SAP AG and security firm ADP. The two companies recently launched a new program that ADP's lawyers want details kept unsealed. The documents discuss ADP's rollout schedule, as well as its competitive pricing contract with the German-based rival of Oracle.

Oracle lead attorney Dan Wall clarified that his client has no intention of using the information.

"It is not the avoidance of embarrassment on some issue that brought us to agree with these decisions," Wall said. "Our belief is that the court should present facts. The revelation would cause some disruption in the market process. What we sought protection for is to get this case moving and not stagnate with procedure. It is not about the fact that there is a Microsoft document that outlines its selling strategies."

As previously reported, Oracle's lawyers are asking the court to submit full five pieces of evidence pertaining to PeopleSoft's pricing strategy. Gary Reback, an attorney and litigation specialist hired by PeopleSoft, told internetnews.com that Oracle's motives are merely self-serving and serves no other purpose.

"Oracle is just trying to make PeopleSoft information public for the sake of harming PeopleSoft," Reback said. "The documents that PeopleSoft is trying to protect pertain to information that no one is relying on."