Last week, a U.K. judge ruled that an organization owes license fees for every person who accessed an application that offered indirect visibility into data stored in an SAP database. SAP sought the fees in a lawsuit against Diageo, the parent company for Smirnoff vodka and Guinness beer. Diageo had used Salesforce's cloud development platform to build order-tracking apps that accessed SAP data. Although Diageo paid a license fee for SAP Exchange Infrastructure, SAP argued that they owed additional fees for every customer and salesperson who accessed the apps in question — and the court agreed.
Robin Fry, a director at software licensing consultancy Cerno Professional Services, warned that the ruling could have consequences for other enterprise application development teams that have created apps that access SAP data. “Any business using SAP is now exposed to substantial SAP penalties and ongoing maintenance charges unless they obtain licenses not just for their internal users but also their customers and suppliers. The danger arises where there is any flow of data from the systems via customer portals to individual customers—even indirectly,” he said. “Although the ruling only has U.K. applicability, SAP’s license agreements are effectively harmonized globally; any corporate needs to take notice and see that SAP’s licensing reach goes far beyond use just within the internal business.”