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Oracle focuses on Google 'Java' emails in Android trial

Date
Rolling in it ... Oracle chief Larry Ellison.

Rolling in it ... Oracle chief Larry Ellison. Photo: AP

Oracle intends to rely heavily on Google's own internal emails to prove Google's top executives knew they were stealing a popular piece of technology to build the Android software that now powers more than 300 million smartphones and tablet computers.

Oracle's strategy emerged Monday as one of the company's lawyers kicked off the opening phase of a lengthy trial pitting two Silicon Valley powerhouses.

Google lawyers will make their opening statements Tuesday.

The showdown in a San Francisco federal court centers on allegations that Google's Android software infringes on the patents and copyrights of Java, a programming technology that Sun Microsystems began developing 20 years ago.

Oracle acquired the rights to Java when it bought Sun Microsystems for $US7.3 billion in 2010.

Oracle began the trial trying to convince a jury that Google's top executives have long known that they stole a key piece of technology to build the Android software that now powers more than more than 300 million smartphones and tablet computers.

The unflattering portrait of Google was drawn by Oracle lawyer Michael Jacobs in the battle delving into the often mind-numbing minutiae of intellectual property and computer coding.

"We will prove to you from beginning to end ... that Google knew it was using someone else's property," Jacobs said near the end of his hour-long opening statement.

Google, the Mountain View-based internet search leader, has steadfastly denied Oracle's allegations since the lawsuit was filed seven months after the Sun deal closed.

The impasse has left it to a 12-member jury to resolve the dispute in a trial scheduled to last as long as 10 weeks. US District Judge William Alsup devoted most of Monday's session to picking the jury, leaving only enough time for Oracle to lay out the framework for its case.

Oracle is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and an injunction that would force Google to pay future licensing fees or find an alternative to Java to keep its Android system running smoothly.

At one point in the lawsuit, Oracle estimated it might be owed as much as $US6.1 billion. But Alsup has whittled the case down in a way that has substantially lowered the size of the potential payout if Google loses.

In a sign of how far apart the two sides are, Google last month said it would be willing to pay $US2.8 million plus a tiny percentage of its future revenue if the jury decides Android infringed on two Java patents. Google hasn't publicly estimated what it thinks its liability might be if the jury decides Android violated 37 Java programming copyrights as alleged by Oracle.

The copyright disagreement - the most important point of the case - will be covered in the first phase of the trial followed by the patent dispute. If necessary, a third phase will be devoted to how much money Google owes Oracle.

Much of the evidence presented during the trial will delve into highly technical fare likely only to appeal to programming geeks and patent-law aficionados. However, there may be dramatic interludes that lift a veil on the inner workings of two of the world's most influential technology companies.

The intrigue will include testimony from the two companies' multibillionaire CEOs, Oracle's Larry Ellison and Google's Larry Page. Oracle indicated on Monday that it could call Ellison to the stand as early as Tuesday.

Several other industry luminaries, including former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz, are also on the list of potential witnesses.

Jacobs focused much of his opening statement on excerpts in internal emails that suggest Google knew it needed to pay licensing fees to use some of the Java technology that went into Android, a project that began in earnest in 2005 when Google bought a startup run by Andy Rubin. The first phone running on Android software didn't go on sale until October 2008, about 15 months before Oracle bought Sun Microsystems and stepped up the attempts to make Google pay up for the Java technology.

Oracle cited an October 2005 email from Rubin to Page as an early sign that Google realised it probably would have to pay Sun for using Java in Android.

"My proposal is that we take a license that specifically grants the right for us to Open Source our product," Rubin wrote.

Jacobs pointed to a May 2006 email from Schmidt to Rubin as an indication that Google knew it might need to seek other solutions for Android if it couldn't work out an agreement with Sun.

"How are we doing on the Sun deal?" Schmidt asked in his message. "Its (sic) it time to develop a non-Java solution to avoid dealing with them?"

By August 2010, Google still hadn't been able to find any satisfactory alternatives to Java, according to an email that Google engineer Tim Lindholm sent to Rubin.

"We have been over a bunch of these, and think they all suck," wrote Lindholm, who worked at Sun Microsystems before joining Google. "We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need."

The lack of a licensing agreement ultimately didn't deter Google, Jacobs told the jury, because the company realised it needed a mobile software system to preserve its digital search and advertising empire as more sophisticated phones enabled more people to surf the internet while they were away from their desktop computers. Java provided Google with a springboard into mobile computing because 6 million software programmers were already familiar with the technology and could easily create applications that would run on Android, Jacobs said.

Although Google doesn't charge device makers to use Android, the company makes money from some of the mobile advertising and mobile applications sold on the system. Google has said its mobile advertising revenue now exceeds $US2.5 billion, but it hasn't specified how much of that money comes from Android-powered devices.

AP Digital

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7 comments so far

  • Oracle intends to rely heavily on Google's own internal emails because - they really dont have ANY facts to show that there is anything to copy.... and already their case has gone from BILLIONS to mere millions.

    Oracle employees are already embarrassed to be working for them, Ive had them appologise and try to explain how its not as bad as it sounds already. If Oracle win this Google will just work around it but - the long term cost for oracle will be significant. Their name in the industry will be mud as the industry wide implications are huge. If an API can be copyright - others will Sue Oracle, Java will not be trusted (Im already looking at alternatives and their shenanigans with HP made some of the companies I deal with look at alternatives in the DB space already). Staff won´t work there if they have a choice which means they will only have second tier staff and that will ALSO hurt them. ORACLE will ONLY LOSE out of this long term no matter the result of the case.

    Commenter
    Poor oracle
    Date and time
    April 17, 2012, 11:08AM
    • Groklaw "When you want to know more but don't know where to look"

      Almost all the headlines you see about this case exaggerate Oracle's remaining case which has been quite thoroughly demolished from the original.

      Commenter
      tqft
      Date and time
      April 17, 2012, 12:31PM
      • Not much mention in this article of Google throwing out Oracle/Suns bloated and slow JavaVM and developing their own faster, better one (Dalvik) as a clean room implementation.

        Commenter
        Victor Mann
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        April 17, 2012, 3:09PM
        • Oracle - the new SCO

          Commenter
          e roy
          Location
          sydney
          Date and time
          April 17, 2012, 9:59PM
          • From my understanding of the issues involving Oracle v Google the re engineering of the open source Java ME API into the Android operating system is at the every heart of the case. Sun Systems the former owners of Java according to Google, sanctioned the development of Android. But it appears that Larry Ellison isn’t quite as accommodating as Sun Systems was. Regardless of the outcome ,the filing by Oracle against Google has damaged the Java brand. Because of the uncertainty that now appears to hang over the open source license.

            Commenter
            DC
            Location
            Melbourne
            Date and time
            April 18, 2012, 12:30AM
            • Ok i interpreted the action of Oracle this way, Oracle brought Sun Microsystem and then Sun's technology become part of Oracle intellectual properties without spending a second of coding and then start suing Google to make money!!

              Nice, very strategic, i shall put this in my business manual of how to make money by suing! Hang on isn't this suppose to be a technological article?

              It is funny that by law this isn't stealing, remember i mentioned the sentence "without spending a second of writing a line of code".

              Commenter
              Gerson
              Location
              Sydney
              Date and time
              April 18, 2012, 1:01AM
              • Just google for:

                Oracle CEO Larry Ellison: I don't know if Java is free

                ..strange to start litigating about a technology you have been giving away when you apparently are unaware of this fact....

                Commenter
                Victor Mann
                Location
                Melbourne
                Date and time
                April 18, 2012, 2:33PM

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