Tech companies dominate the Silicon Valley, and one of the results is the litany of lawsuits as the big corporations accuse each other of infringing intellectual property. For example, Apple is suing phone as well as tablet makers Motorola and Samsung for copying the designs of Apple’s products, including parts of the operating system. The operating systems that Apple is attacking are based on Android, an operating system that Google developed and has distributed freely for companies to use. While Apple is not suing Google, Oracle is. Oracle’s complaint centers on the actual development of the Android system. The trial started last Monday and is scheduled to close at the end of June.
On Friday, the Oracle v. Google trial continued in Courtroom No. 8 of the federal district courthouse in San Francisco. I was worried that I would not have a chance to watch the trial, but I did get a seat on the somewhat full public view benches. Judge Alsup began by allowing Oracle and Google ten minutes each to explain to the jury what they were proving and what the jury should expect in the weeks to come. After the spectacle of both companies’ CEOs being called to testify earlier in the week, this was a welcome recap for anyone trying to follow the case.
Oracle’s counsel explained that Sun Microsystems, before Oracle had acquired the company, licensed out the use of the Java programming language for commercial applications. Oracle believes that the licenses are necessary to prevent the fragmenting of the Java programming language – Java developers should expect that their programs work on multiple operating systems without much modification. Sun and Google discussed licensing Java for the purpose of developing Android, but the negotiations went nowhere. Oracle believes Google then copied Java application programming interfaces (APIs) protected under copyright and patent so that Google could release Android to later dominate the mobile operating system market. Google may retort that it copied various open-source projects for use in Android development including Apache, but Oracle responds that Apache copied from Java too, and Google executives and Android developers knew it. Oracle is asking for a billion dollars in damages.
Google’s counsel argued that the fight is not about protecting the integrity of the Java language but instead about Oracle’s inability to compete in the mobile market. Talk about APIs and fragmenting is a legal construct not present in negotiations between Google and Sun.. Out of millions of lines of code that constitute Android, only a few hundred lines have been identified as potentially being copied from Java. Google argues that it copied from various open-source projects and never needed a Java license in the first place. Oracle’s request of damages is just a means to profit from Oracle’s inability to compete with Google in the mobile market. Google’s counsel had some extra time because Oracle had gone over the ten-minute limit, but they finished early.
The rest of the day was devoted to Oracle bringing witnesses to demonstrate Google’s knowledge of needing a license from Sun. The first was Brian Swetland, an engineer who worked at Danger, Inc. before going to Google. Danger’s best-known product was the HipHop, better known as the T-Mobile Sidekick. Danger founder Andy Rubin later founded Android, which Google bought. Oracle’s lawyer tried to show that Rubin was aware of the licensing problem, but Google lawyers objected to questions to engineers about why licenses would be or would not be needed. Google counsel eventually got to ask Swetland why he thought Danger took a license from Sun. Swetland responded that Danger was a small company compared to Sun, and he supposed that Danger should cooperate with the bigger company and take what Sun offered.
Oracle ended up wasting more time to make their case. For example, Oracle wanted to call Bob Lee, Core Library Lead at Google for Android, concerning the knowledge of the license. Before Oracle could question Bell, Google’s lawyers mentioned that Oracle had given Google a stack of material concerning the testimony but had not identified the relevant sections. Judge Alsup decided that the witness would be called back next week. The last witness called, Leo Cizek, testified on licensing talks between Google and Sun. Google made plenty of objections regarding hearsay, relevance, and 403, and some of them were sustained. After the jury was dismissed, Judge Alsup mentioned that he didn’t see the point of the last witness’ testimony, and that Oracle would not be granted any extensions for witness examination.
I am glad to present my eyewitness account of the Oracle v. Google trial. The case is very complicated because Oracle is claiming patent as well as copyright infringement on some lines of code that may have been copied without license. The judge noted the case’s complexity and recommended that everyone return to their homes or hotels and get a double…single malt scotch whiskey. I’m looking forward to arguments about patent infringement, but for now I’ll come back to the courtroom for Monday’s session.