Menlo park-based Informix Software Inc reckons that the hiring by oracle of two employees from its Portland, Oregon product development laboratory – and making job offers to ten others – goes beyond the normal traffic of staff between companies, and has filed suit against Oracle, alleging potential theft of trade secrets. among other claims, the complaint charges oracle and former Informix product development VP Gary Kelley with misappropriation of trade secrets and unfair competition, and seeks injunctive relief and punitive damages. It has already won a restraining order against Oracle, which Oracle can contest in court on February 7th. The 12 engineers who resigned from Informix last Wednesday were part of the company’s 200-strong development team working on the parallel xps implementation of the Informix database and continuous replication tools. Informix claims – and of course it would – that its technology is between 12 and 24 months ahead of Oracle’s own in those areas and that not only was Kelley the first employee of the unit and knows the technologies inside out because he’s been working on a raft of future products in the same area. Informix legal counsel says the company wants either the restraining order to be made permanent so that no proprietary information can be disclosed, or the employees moved to other areas of Oracle in which parallel and replication technologies have no bearing. Informix said it would begin a discovery process last Friday to investigate whether any of the 12 have company-sensitive information stored on home computers or elsewhere outside of their workplaces,
Restoring to litigation is the management equivalent of employees going on strike – a woeful admission of failure to negotiate an agreement, and it looks at first glance as if Informix has filed the suit principally to score some costly points over its far more successful rival. Our primary concern is that we protect Informix’s intellectual property and trade secrets from Oracle, says Phil White, Informix chief executive.This is an extraordinary public admission from Oracle that it is behind in database technology and a blatant act unheard of in the software industry. They could not develop competitive products so they had to buy Informix employees. This is made even more obvious by the fact that Oracle did not have a development facility in Portland prior to these actions. While the tub-thumping is not pretty, Informix claims it’s had messages of support from other unidentified ISVs.