A magistrate judge has awarded a permanent injunction against Business Objects that prevents it from shipping a rival's technology in one of its products, although Business Objects has already released an upgrade to the product that removes the disputed feature.
The injunction, awarded this week by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, prevents Business Objects from shipping its Data Integrator product with a data transformation technology developed by Informatica, a rival in the data analytics software market.
Business Objects acquired the technology when it bought Acta Technologies in 2002. Informatica filed a patent infringement suit against Acta a week after the acquisition was announced, and Business Objects inherited the lawsuit when it closed the deal a month later.
Business Objects lost an initial ruling in the case in April this year. A jury determined it had wilfully infringed the patents and awarded Informatica US$25 million in damages. There remained a question about the patent's enforceability, but the court this week ruled that they are valid and enforceable, Informatica said.
Business Objects released a new version of Data Integrator, version 11.7.2, in August, after the jury's initial finding. The update removed the data transformation feature at the center of the lawsuit, Business Objects said at the time.
Customers who bought an earlier version of Data Integrator should not affected. This week's judgment makes an exception for providing "necessary ongoing support to customers who purchased copies of the infringing Data Integrator product prior to entry of this injunction."
The disputed technology is used during the ETL (extract, transform and load) process of building a data warehouse. It allows a customer to make a change to the data source (usually a database) or the data target (the data warehouse) without having to also change the "transformation object" that prepares the data for transferral, said Brian Gentile, Informatica's chief marketing officer.
Business Objects has said the technology was not core to its product, and evidence at trial suggested that it can implement a "non-infringing alternative" for US$200,000 or less, according to the order this week from Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte.
Still, In assessing the harm to Informatica by the infringement she credited the company for its innovation: "Informatica was the first to offer a commercial ETL product that offered the reusable transformation objects claimed in the patents-in-suit. Informatica was able to use its patented invention to distinguish itself as an innovator and to distinguish its product from those of other ETL vendors," Judge Laporte wrote.
In its statement, Business Objects said the "proceedings in the trial with Informatica are not complete and Business Objects remains confident that the company will ultimately prevail."