March 13, 1997 1:15 PM ET
Informix modifies suit against Oracle
By Juan Carlos Perez

  Informix Software Inc. is refining its lawsuit against Oracle Corp., based on information the two companies have shared during the case's discovery process.

The suit, filed on Jan. 24 in Circuit Court for Multnomah County, in Portland, Ore., accuses Oracle of raiding Informix's product development lab, hoping to nab trade secrets by hiring 11 of its engineers.

"We're tailoring our complaint to fit some significant facts we have found," said David Stanley, vice president and general counsel at Informix, in Menlo Park, Calif.

Informix filed an amended complaint last week that focuses all allegations on former Informix Vice President Gary Kelley. The allegations include breach of contract, threatened misappropriation of trade secrets, "tortious interference with prospective advantage," unfair competition and breach of fiduciary duty.

Informix is seeking punitive damages from Kelley, who spearheaded the hiring process with Oracle, according to Stanley. Kelley had been the other employees' supervisor until December, Stanley added.

The modification in the complaint has come about because, with one exception, Informix has found no proof that the departing employees took and have made use of trade secrets.

As a result, Informix is now suing the engineers for "threatened" misappropriation of trade secrets, not actual misappropriation. The company is asking the court to prevent the engineers from working on Oracle projects where they might consciously or inadvertently use proprietary Informix information, Stanley said.

"We want a mechanism to protect our trade secrets, so we want the court to restrict the areas they work in or the people they work with, or both," Stanley said.

Oracle is also included in the lawsuit, under allegations of threatened misappropriation of trade secrets, tortious interference with prospective advantage, and unfair competition.

Currently, a temporary restraining order is in effect that prevents the engineers from divulging trade secrets and Oracle from soliciting them, although it doesn't prohibit them from working on database-related tasks, Stanley said.

At the next hearing, scheduled for April 1, Informix will ask the court to replace the restraining order with an injunction to last the length of the litigation.

The sole instance so far of "apparent" appropriation of confidential material involves one of the engineers who, three days before resigning, logged on to the Informix system from home and downloaded 7MB of data to his home PC, something employees normally aren't authorized to do, Stanley said.

That file contained proprietary information about the Informix Extended Parallel Server as well as benchmarking, delivery and customer feedback information about other Informix products. The file, which, if printed, would be a 15-inch-thick stack of paper, was returned to Informix three weeks after the lawsuit was filed, Stanley said.

Oracle officials in Redwood Shores, Calif., were not available for comment at press time.

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