Supreme Court sides with Rimini Street, orders Oracle to pay litigation costs

The unanimous ruling could deter companies from pursuing copyright suits that are likely to involve expert testimony or extensive e-discovery expenses.

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The Supreme Court on Monday sided with Rimini Street over Oracle in a dispute over litigation fees, ordering Oracle to pay back $12.8 million to Rimini Street. The unanimous decision, which came down to the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Copyright Act, is just the latest development in a years-long, ongoing battle over copyright claims.

Back in 2016, Rimini Street was ordered to pay nearly $100 million to Oracle after a jury found that Rimini infringed 93 Oracle copyrights. The damages included $12.8 million for litigation expenses such as expert witnesses, e-discovery and jury consulting.

Rimini Street, which provides third party enterprise software support, argued that the Copyright Act limits the judgment awarded to Oracle to "taxable costs" -- while the $12.8 million in litigation expenses were non-taxable. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the non-taxable costs could be included.

In an opinion written by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the Supreme Court agreed with Rimini Street that the Copyright Act strictly limits what costs can be awarded against the losing party in a copyright case.

"We are pleased with this latest victory in the highest Court, and look forward to continuing our fierce competition with Oracle in the marketplace by providing the best enterprise software support service and value for Oracle licensees worldwide," Rimini Street CEO Seth Ravin said in a statement.

Rimini Street is still trying to win back an additional $28.5 million from Oracle, in an appeals case pending before the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In a statement, Oracle VP Deborah Hellinger said Monday's decision doesn't change the fundamental facts of the case. "Rimini engaged in a massive theft of Oracle's IP and tried to cover it up by destroying evidence and engaging in other litigation misconduct, but it got tagged for its illegal activities anyway by both judge and jury, as the opinion acknowledges," Hellinger said. "And despite its effort to avoid an injunction, Rimini has been enjoined from further infringement."

Monday's ruling could impact what kind of future copyright disputes businesses decide to pursue, according to Bruce Ewing, co-chair of the Intellectual Property Litigation Practice Group at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney.

"The decision is likely to have a deterrent effect on the initiation of copyright suits that are likely to involve expert testimony and extensive ediscovery expenses, when brought by plaintiffs who lack the means to cover them; these expenses will not be reimbursed even if such a plaintiff were to prevail," Ewing said in a statement. "Indeed, absent amendment of the Copyright Act, defendants found liable for copyright infringement will no longer have to reimburse plaintiffs for expert witness and ediscovery fees."

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