Another trade secrets row has blown up between Informix and Oracle, with the former alleging that an ex-employee took an took an important electronic file containing company trade secrets three days before resigning to join Oracle. Oracle maintains the file was downloaded in error as the worker was getting personal email.
An Oracle spokeswoman says the worker "promptly" returned the data to Informix when it was discovered that there was business information related to Informix in the files. "Oracle was never privy to that information," says Margaret Lasecke. The worker "voluntarily returned the information before discovery," in which Informix lawyers ask for documents to be used as evidence in its litigation.
The 7Mb electronic file contained a draft patent application for a feature intended for an Informix product, as well as proprietary design documents for featues in Informix' Extended Parallel Server (XPS), and electronic mail messages containing proprietary benchmarking data, delivery schedules and customer feedback on Informix products, according to Informix.
The file was not returned to Informix until three weeks after the lawsuit was filed, the company said. "Although the file has been returned, we have no idea whether or not the file was copied by Oracle," says Robert Manetta, an Informix spokesman.
Informix has also announced that it has amended its lawsuit against 11 former employees who defected to Oracle. The firm is now suing for "threatened" misappropriation of trade secrets as opposed to actual misappropriation of trade secrets. In addition, Informix has dropped breach of contract allegations against 10 of the workers to focus the charges on one former employee whom the firm claims negotiated with Oracle on behalf of all the workers.
Informix will not seek charges against the unnamed worker who allegedly took the electronic file, but will seek punitive damages from Gary Kelley, former vice president of product development at Informix. Kelley is accused of breach of confidentiality and nonsolicitation agreements for "willful, wanton or malicious conduct" by allegedly coercing the other workers to leave Informix, the firm said.
Informix filed the lawsuit on January 25 to prevent Oracle from gaining access to software secrets, according to David Stanley, vice president and general counsel for Informix. A hearing has been scheduled for Friday on Informix' request that its former employees be prohibited from working on products at Oracle related to those they worked on at Informix, according to Stanley.