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Oct 23 (Reuters) – Attorneys for SAP AG (DE.SAP) have asked a federal judge for a gag order during the upcoming trial in an intellectual property theft case stemming from a lawsuit by software company Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL).

The move followed a column by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera in which he suggested that former SAP chief Leo Apotheker had known about the theft at a subsidiary called TomorrowNow and had initially done nothing about it.

Oracle has accused SAP — through the now-defunct TomorrowNow — of gaining unauthorized access to its customer support website, allowing SAP to copy thousands of software products and other confidential material.

SAP has accepted liability for copyright infringement in the lawsuit, which is set to go to trial in November and will determine how much SAP should pay in damages.

Apotheker was hired late last month as the new CEO of Hewlett-Packard (HPQ.N), although he does not officially start until Nov. 1. HP has defended Apotheker, saying Oracle has offered no evidence he was involved in the matter.

In a five-page court motion filed late on Friday, lawyers for SAP argued that articles like the one published in the New York Times had the potential to influence the jury.

They asked U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton to order that lawyers for both sides be prohibited from making statements to the media outside court.

Lawyers for SAP pointed out that Nocera was the fiance of the publicist for Oracle’s lead counsel.

In an editors’ note published several days after the article, the Times said Nocera learned only after writing it that his fiancee’s firm represented Oracle. (Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney)