SAP waited until almost the last minute to refute Oracle’s strongly worded legal complaints accusing it of stealing trade secrets in a bid to attract new customers.

The German software company admitted to "some inappropriate downloads" by its TomorrowNow software support subsidiary, but said SAP never had access to the downloads.

TomorrowNow was authorised to download materials from Oracle's website on behalf of customers, SAP said in a statement, but acknowledged that there were some inappropriate downloads of fixes and support documents. SAP announced new oversights at TomorrowNow designed to avoid such complications in the future.

"Even a single inappropriate download is unacceptable from my perspective," said Henning Kagermann, SAP chief executive, in a statement. "We regret very much that this occurred."

The US Department of Justice has asked for documents related to the case from SAP and TomorrowNow, SAP said, and the companies will fully cooperate with the request.

Oracle filed a surprise lawsuit against SAP on 22 March charging that the company and its TomorrowNow third-party support subsidiary had committed "corporate theft on a grand scale".

Oracle alleged that one or more TomorrowNow staff illegally hacked into a secure support website for users of Oracle's PeopleSoft and JD Edwards applications and downloaded vast amounts of online content, which SAP then used to offer Oracle customers cut-rate support services.

Under a legal stipulation the two vendors agreed in mid-May that SAP had until 2 July to issue its response and SAP, making no public comment on the charges, filed its response in US District Court late Monday.