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Database rivals trade barbs

Oracle says Informix downgraded a lawsuit stemming from the defection of 11 engineers. Informix denies it has backed down.

The war of words between database rivals Oracle (ORCL) and Informix (IFMX) continued today as Oracle claimed Informix had downgraded a lawsuit stemming from the defection of 11 Informix engineers to Oracle.

Informix denied it has backed down or lessened its legal action.

Oracle's statement today said Informix had "dropped its claims that former Informix employees had misappropriated trade secrets and had breached their confidentiality agreements with the company when these ex-employees recently left Informix to join Oracle."

Informix labeled Oracle's version "half-truths" and said it had modified its complaint based on evidence unearthed in the pretrial discovery process.

"In some instances, we are seeking lesser remedies against individuals," said Informix general counsel David Stanley. "In the case of Gary Kelley, we are seeking greater damages." Kelley was the team leader and vice president whom Informix believes was the ringleader in the defections.

The biggest point of contention in the latest row concerns email messages and perhaps other data that one of the Informix engineers took with him to Oracle.

"Although some business information was unknowingly included among the personal emails copied, all emails containing any business information were returned unopened to Informix, and the files were never read or accessed by anyone at Oracle," Oracle stated today.

Informix says the electronic files contained 7MB of data--enough to fill a stack of pages 15 inches high. Stanley also said the data, which was returned three weeks after the engineers left Informix and two days before that person was to be questioned under oath, included proprietary design documents and a patent application.

"I don't think that without this litigation, we ever would have seen this stuff," he added.

Informix filed suit in Portland, Oregon, on January 23, the day after its software engineers left. Oracle contends the engineers jumped ship because they were dissatisfied with Informix management and product leadership. Informix says Oracle hired away the employees because it lagged in technology.

A temporary restraining order, issued January 23 (the day the suit was filed), remains in effect, pending a May 12 hearing. It bars the former Informix employees from divulging trade secrets and Oracle from trying to recruit other Informix employees.