EDS BSkyB dispute became IT's longest and most expensive court battle

Today's judgment comes more than five years after BSkyB filed its claim against EDS over a failed customer relationship management system.

The dispute...

Today's judgment comes more than five years after BSkyB filed its claim against EDS over a failed customer relationship management system.

The dispute led to the IT industry's longest and most expensive court battles. When court hearings started in October 2007 they were expected to last six months but continued for nearly a year.

The court hearings finished in the autumn of 2008. Then the High Court indicated that there would be a settlement by December 2008. But it has taken until now to deliver a judgement.

Lawyers said that the judge, Mr Justice Ramsey, wanted to make the judgment appeal-proof.

On one single day at the High Court in 2007 were more than 20 people on the legal benches for EDS and BSkyB including three QCs.

The main hearings took place at High Holborn in an unusually large courtroom which is a satellite of the High Court in The Strand. In the court were about 700 "A4" box files comprising material such as expert reports, contracts, claimant notebooks, correspondence, EDS internal standards, response to the Invitation to Tender and witness statements.

One logistical difficulty for both sides was that the project dated back about seven years and some of the witnesses no longer worked for BSkyB or EDS and were being flown in from various parts of the world.

The case began with BSkyB's Queen's Counsel Mark Howard saying: "This is a case about deceitSky allege that, during the course of a competitive tender, EDS represented they had the resources, proven technology, and methodology to enable them to deliver the solution within a certain timescale and cost The representations are alleged to have been made dishonestly in order to win the business."

"The simple fact is that Richard Freudenstein [then Sky's Chief Operating Officer] would never have chosen EDS and recommended their selection to Tony Ball [Sky's Chief Executive Officer] had EDS not falsely represented their capability to deliver the system in the stated time and at the stated cost ..," he said.

For EDS, QC Mark Barnes said at the opening of the case: "We suggest it is an artificial claim designed to overcome the difficulties that Sky face under their contracts and to allow them to claim absurd and extravagant amounts of damages." He said the "main problem with this project was that it was wholly unspecified".

"Sky knew it wanted a super-dooper CRM system but had little more idea of what it wanted or needed." He said Sky's case is "so ambiguous and slippery that it is difficult at any one time to know at any one time what exactly one is having to deal with." EDS strongly denies deceit, dishonesty or misrepresentation.

BSkyB v EDS - 7 months in and nowhere near finished

Read more on IT legislation and regulation