HP vs Oracle continues- No one wants to be exhibit A

Posted by: on May 31, 2012 | No Comments

Have you ever had the experience of going through someone’s email or chat logs and seeing something you later wished you hadn’t?

There’s a legal version of this. It’s called electronic discovery (or ediscovery). During litigation, each side gets to see the other’s private communications. Lawyers from each side get to identify sensitive data and get it extracted using digital forensic procedures, then tag it with “Exhibit A” or (or B. Or C. Or… well, you get the idea) in a courtroom.

Of course, you can also do what Oracle did and release the worst of what you find in a public letter.

Ouch.

But, turnabout is fair play. Earlier this week, Arik Hesseldahl of AllthingsD posted a series of documents to be used on HP’s side of the Oracle-HP case. Basically, they’re embarrassing. Like an inappropriate chat with an attractive friend you wouldn’t want your spouse or romantic partner to see, they are cringe-worthy at best. They feature Oracle’s North America sales and consulting VP Keith Block insulting the newly acquired Sun Hardware products to Anje Dodson, Oracle’s VP of HR. “We bought a dog… Mark [Hurd] wants us to sell the dog,” he says. He goes on to say that no one wants to sell Sun, as “it baaaallllloooooooows.” He also bizarrely negotiates an employee named Linda’s bonus (you kind of have to see it to believe it), and says someone named Janet Lewis should “[expletive] off” and rejoice over her recent resignation.

Yes, all stuff no one would want released to the public—were it me, I’d be more mortified about the discussion of the bonus (Linda, if you’re out there, this is your queue to demand a raise) and I’m sure Janet Lewis is unfriending Keith and Anje on Facebook as we speak. Of course, though, the legal point is that Oracle talks about as badly about Sun’s hardware- which is now their own- as HP does Itanium.

What we should all take away from this, however, is to be careful what you put in writing, even if it’s just a chat with a trusted coworker. Embarrassing emails and instant messages have an odd way of resurfacing at the worst possible time- and believe me, no one wants to be Exhibit A.