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Google's Schmidt challenged about Java


Google 'would have paid' Sun up to $US50 million to jointly develop a mobile platform.

Eric Schmidt (R) in a court sketch being questioned by Oracle lawyer David Boies as US District Judge William Alsup (L) ...

Eric Schmidt (R) in a court sketch being questioned by Oracle lawyer David Boies as US District Judge William Alsup (L) watches during a trial over patents involving Java on April 24, 2012. Photo: Vicki Behringer/Reuters

Google's former CEO defended the company's use of Java, telling jurors he was confident that the Android smartphone platform was developed legally and that top executives at Sun Microsystems did not object to the project now at the center of a high-stakes court battle.

Eric Schmidt, now Google's executive chairman, took the stand on Tuesday in the trial of Oracle against Google over smartphone technology.

Oracle, which acquired Sun in 2010, sued Google in August 2010, saying Android infringed on its copyrights and patents for the Java programming language. Google countered that it does not violate Oracle's patents and that Oracle cannot copyright certain parts of Java, an open-source, or publicly available, software language.

In court on Tuesday, Oracle attorney David Boies showed Schmidt a 2005 presentation to Google's top managers that said Google "must" take a licence from Sun. Schmidt said he could not recall being told that was the case.

Schmidt said at one point that Google derived enough advertising revenue from Android to fund the operating system and a "whole bunch" more.

"The goal was to get as many users as we could on a powerful new platform that could exploit the Web," Schmidt said of Android.

Unlike current Google CEO Larry Page who testified last week, Schmidt appeared much more at ease while parrying questions from Boies about the development of Android.

At one point, Schmidt asked Boies to repeat a question, saying he wanted to be sure he answered it truthfully.

"I want you to answer truthfully," Boies said, prompting Schmidt to laugh.

Schmidt was Oracle's final witness before Oracle rested its copyright case on Tuesday morning - and Google then called him as its first defence witness.

Under questioning from Google attorney Robert Van Nest, Schmidt said Sun wanted roughly $US30 million to $US50 million in 2006 to jointly develop a mobile platform with Google. Such a deal would have saved Google time in getting Android to market, Schmidt said.

"We would have paid that simply to resolve it," Schmidt said.

However, negotiations between the two companies faltered. Android chief Andy Rubin later testified that while Google wanted to make the software platform open source, Sun wanted to impose restrictions to which Google was opposed.

After Google developed Android on its own and announced it at the end of 2007, Schmidt said he had multiple meetings with Sun Chief Executive Jonathan Schwartz, who never expressed any disapproval about Android.

Google has argued that Oracle launched the lawsuit only after Oracle decided it would be unable to develop a smartphone on its own.

The trial, expected to last at least eight weeks, has been divided into three phases: copyright liability, patent claims, and damages.

Early in the case, estimates of potential damages against Google ran as high as $US6.1 billion. But Google successfully narrowed Oracle's patent claims and reduced the possible award. Oracle is seeking roughly $US1 billion in copyright damages.

The jury will deliberate on copyright liability before moving on to hear evidence about patent infringement. US District Judge William Alsup may also decide some of the copyright issues.


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12 comments so far

  • So basically any IT startup is bound to face legal problems in the future once they get successful. Because pretty much everything would have been patented already now.
    In the bigger picture of things, Intellectual property as having ownership over an idea, is akin to seeing a dog marking out his territory, and staking that space as his, its all really silly from a higher perspective.

    Date and time
    April 25, 2012, 12:18PM
    • When you spend millions of dollars creating your own Intellectual property see how far you'll go to protect it. If there were no Intellectual property protections then companies wouldn't bother to create new inventions/ideas.

      Tony B
      Date and time
      April 25, 2012, 3:50PM
    • @TonyB
      Companies are patenting the idea, not the technology/methods used to implement that idea.

      The fact that it takes time, effort and money to implement that idea is another matter. But to think that in a world of more than 6 billion people, that no more than one person would think of the same thing is crazy.

      Date and time
      April 25, 2012, 6:02PM
    • @TonyB - this case appears to be more about money and power than innovation/invention.

      I interpreted as Oracle brought (nothing was innovated/invented here) Sun, and now it's mine and i sue Google.

      Date and time
      April 25, 2012, 11:30PM
    • If "everything that can be invented has been invented", it's difficult to explain the exponentially increasing number of granted patents year on year.

      Date and time
      April 26, 2012, 10:34AM
  • google should of changed a couple of instructions, integrated c++ support and called it a new language like microsoft did. Java has always been a joke, a clunky, disfunctional mess. Google deserves to hang, not for copyright infringement but for even considering it for its platform

    Date and time
    April 25, 2012, 1:49PM
    • mate, you are so frigging right! (i thought you still could code in c++ for android with their native development kit - ndk - which essentially is linux - of course; but it does not seem mainstream)

      Date and time
      April 25, 2012, 6:09PM
    • Haha good one Steve, you obviously understand Java better than someone like me who's been developing million dollar software projects in Java for 17 years. Developing Android on Java was a very smart move. I can now write new apps on my Galaxy Tab, it's 100% sweet.

      Date and time
      April 26, 2012, 9:30AM
  • I worked at Sun for a number of years including when Java was developed back in the 90s and it was always intended that Java would be open source, BUT in making it free came with a proviso that it would not be used for commercial purposes. Java was a bait to get developers away from Microsoft's .Net. It was also a way to provide a cross platform development tool in competition with Microsoft.

    I doubt that at the time it would have occurred to Sun that Java would be used as the basis for a mobile phone operating system.

    Date and time
    April 26, 2012, 10:01AM
    • That's not entirely true.

      Java was developed in 1995. Microsoft didn't release the .NET framework until 2002.

      People were using the Microsoft W32 APIs back in the 90's with Visual Basic, and Visual C.

      Date and time
      April 26, 2012, 10:43AM

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