* HP had accused Oracle of violating contract
* Judge says promises by Oracle execs were clear
* Orders Oracle to offer products on HP Itanium servers
* Oracle says it plans to appeal
By Poornima Gupta and Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO, Aug 1 (Reuters) - A California state court judge ruled in favor of Hewlett-Packard Co and against Oracle Corp in a bitter lawsuit over the latter’s decision to end support for HP’s Itanium-based servers.
HP had accused Oracle of violating a contract when it decided last March that it would no longer make new versions of its database software compatible with HP’s high-end servers based on Intel Corp’s Itanium chips. Oracle maintained that it had no such contract with HP.
The servers are mostly used by large corporations with rigorous computing needs.
Santa Clara Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg wrote on Wednesday that a contract exists between HP and Oracle, and that Oracle is required to continue to offer its product suite on HP’s Itanium server platform.
Oracle is required to port its products to HP’s Itanium-based servers without charge to HP, the judge ruled.
“The parties had a long history of trust and collaboration, the promises made by the Oracle executives were clear and unambiguous,” Kleinberg wrote in the preliminary ruling, “and the parties’ relationship was very profitable for both companies.”
Oracle said it plans to appeal the decision.
“We made the decision as we became convinced that Itanium was approaching its end of life and we explained our rationale to customers,” Oracle said in a statement. “Nothing in the Court’s preliminary opinion changes that fact.”
The high-stakes dispute between both companies, which have been partners for the last 30 years and have about 140,000 common customers, came after the former friends became intense rivals following Oracle’s purchase of Sun Microsystems.
Oracle’s purchase meant that the company was now into the server hardware field, in which it previously partnered with HP.
Also, Oracle hired former HP chief executive Mark Hurd in 2011 after he left HP amid questions over his relationship with a female contractor.
Kleinberg’s ruling did not address the question of damages. It is possible that a jury will now decide those questions.
He wrote that Oracle is obliged to continue to offer its product suite on Itanium-based server platforms until “such time as HP discontinues the sales of its Itanium-based servers.”
Oracle is also required to port its products to HP Itanium servers without charge to HP, according to the ruling.
HP, which is seeks up to $4 billion in damages, said the ruling is “a tremendous win” and expects Oracle to comply with its “contractual obligation as ordered by the court.”
HP had argued before the judge that Oracle and HP had agreed that support for Itanium would continue, without which the HP equipment using the chip would become obsolete.
HP also told the judge in June that the commitment was affirmed when it settled an earlier lawsuit over Oracle’s hiring of Hurd.
The case in the Superior Court of the State of California, County of Santa Clara is Hewlett-Packard Company v. Oracle Corporation, No. 11-CV-203163