Data Drama

Teradata sues SAP for trade secret theft on data analytics product

The logo of German software group SAP AG is pictured at its headquarters in Walldorf
I won't play the SAP for you (apologies to Humphrey Bogart). Source: Reuters

The US cloud data analytics firm Teradata has filed a lawsuit against SAP, accusing the German software giant of stealing trade secrets, copyright infringement and anticompetitive behavior. The lawsuit strikes at the HANA in-memory data platform that lies at the core of most of SAP’s resource application products.

In-memory data can produce results very quickly. Together with other software applications which can find parallels in data, it’s an important component in big data analysis.

Teradata alleges that SAP entered into a joint venture with the US firm 10 years ago with the express purpose of gaining access to its intellectual property, which it then stole and used to develop “a competing though inferior product.” Then SAP terminated the joint venture and is now trying to “coerce” its customers into using HANA and drive Teradata out of business, the lawsuit claims.

SAP’s core S/4 HANA product has several thousand clients. The technology is also used in the newest product, C/4 HANA, a cloud-based application designed to compete with San Francisco-based Salesforce, a leader in customer relations management.

SAP tells customers that it is essential to use HANA with their databases to ensure smooth functioning. Teradata claims that is anticompetitive because it compels customers reliant on the SAP software to migrate to HANA.

Suspicion goes back years

SAP said Wednesday it was surprised by the lawsuit. The company, based in Walldorf in southwestern Germany, said it doesn’t normally comment on ongoing cases but reserved the right to comment further after it had reviewed the lawsuit in detail.

Teradata’s claims are partially based on a 2015 article published in the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, in which an SAP whistleblower said the firm illegally appropriated intellectual property from Oracle, IBM, Blackberry and Teradata in its development of HANA. An SAP internal investigation at the time found the accusation baseless. SAP supervisory board chairman Hasso Plattner said the product was developed at the Hasso Plattner Institute and that he has affidavits from the developers that no outside software was used.

Teradata’s suit, filed in US District Court for Northern California, seeks an injunction to bar SAP’s use of the product and unspecified damages. The American firm claims SAP’s actions have cost it customers and business, eroding its market share and causing “irreparable and ongoing harm.”

Christof Kerkmann writes about the technology sector for Handelsblatt. Darrell Delamaide adapted this article into English for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: kermann@handelsblatt.com

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