Using Salesforce to access SAP? Pour yourself a stiff drink


The week after a U.K. court favored SAP in a US$70 million licensing dispute, the software developer took another brewery to arbitration in the U.S., this time seeking damages of over $600 million.

The disputes — both are ongoing — bode ill for companies using platforms such as Salesforce.com to indirectly access data held in SAP systems subject to named-user licensing.

“SAP investors may welcome this litigation, but it’s yet one more reason why new customers are fleeing to the hills, choosing Amazon Web Services or Google, where they can, for their future software needs,” Robin Fry, legal director at software licensing consultancy Cerno Professional Services, said Thursday. “Why choose SAP if, despite being a loyal customer and careful attempts at compliance, there’s a real risk that they might bring a gun at your head, or force you to restate your earnings, down the line?”

The target in the first case was Diageo, a British company that brews beer and distills whisky around the world. SAP accused it of allowing staff to use a Salesforce.com system to indirectly access data in an SAP database without the requisite named-user licenses. The judge accepted SAP’s argument that even indirect access to its software required a license, but has not yet ruled on the amount due. SAP wants an additional £54,503,578 — around $70 million, or about as much as Diageo already paid for the 12 years for which license fees are in dispute.

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