Bloomberg News

Oracle to Face Google in Android Operating System Trial

April 16, 2012

Oracle Corp. (ORCL:US) is set to go before a federal jury for the first time with claims that Google Inc. (GOOG:US) stole some of the intellectual property behind its Android operating system.

Jury selection began today in San Francisco in Oracle’s lawsuit alleging Google used Java programming language without permission to develop Android software. The two-month trial will feature testimony from the companies’ chief executive officers, Larry Ellison and Larry Page, as well as damage experts appointed by both sides and the presiding judge.

Oracle, the largest maker of database software, is seeking $1 billion in damages and an injunction to block Google from distributing Android, now running on more than 150 million devices, unless it takes a license.

“Google’s management, at its very highest level, made the decision to intentionally infringe Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property, in stark contrast to virtually every other industry competitor who have followed the rules for decades,” David Boies, an Oracle attorney, said in an e-mail.

The first phase of the trial will deal with allegations of copyright infringement; phase two will deal with patent claims and in the last phase the jury will decide whether Oracle is entitled to damages if the jury decides its intellectual property was infringed.

Evidence Allowed

Google lost a bid today to block Oracle from presenting in the first two phases of the case evidence of certain financial aspects of Oracle’s $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems Inc., which developed Java.

Boies, who represented the U.S. government in its antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. and served as lawyer for Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 presidential recount litigation, represented Oracle in 2010 in a copyright-infringement case against SAP AG (SAP), the world’s largest maker of business applications software.

Boies helped persuade a jury to award Redwood City, California-based Oracle $1.3 billion in damages in that case, only to see the verdict thrown out by a judge who called it “grossly excessive.” A new trial is scheduled for June.

Google, based in Mountain View, California, denies infringing Oracle’s patents, saying the Oracle-owned technology it’s accused of taking, called application programming interfaces, or APIs, isn’t covered by copyright, and that its use of parts of the Java platform was fair and legal.

Programming Languages

“Computer programming languages are not copyrightable, and neither are Oracle’s APIs,” Google attorney Robert Van Nest said in a court filing. “Oracle accuses Google of infringement for doing what the Oracle API specifications describe. That is a classic attempt to improperly assert copyright over an idea rather than expression.”

Settlement talks held April 2 and in September failed to resolve the lawsuit.

Developed by Sun (JAVA:US) in the mid-1990s, Java lets developers write programs that work across different operating systems and on a variety of computers. It formed a key building block of the World Wide Web and is widely used in business applications. The software also runs on billions of mobile devices.

Google rejected an offer by Sun to pay $100 million in royalties to use Java to develop Android, Van Nest said at a hearing last year in the case. The proposed three-year “all- in’” deal in 2006 was for a technology partnership to jointly build Android, rather than for just a patent license, Van Nest said.

Mobile-Phone Market

Google relies on Android, the most popular U.S. smartphone operating system, to compete with Apple Inc. (AAPL:US) in the mobile-phone market and lessen its dependence on traditional Web-search advertising.

Oracle also alleged that Google infringed the two Java patents in the case that a court-appointed expert estimated are worth $2.8 million in damages.

In its original lawsuit filed in 2010, Oracle claimed Google was infringing seven patents. Only two haven’t been removed from the case. Google won a ruling last year throwing out Oracle’s $6.1 billion damage estimate. U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who presides over the case, ruled that damage estimates should start at $100 million, the 2006 offer from Sun.

The case is Oracle America Inc. v. Google Inc., 10-03561, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco federal court at kgullo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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Companies Mentioned

  • ORCL
    (Oracle Corp)
    • $39.8 USD
    • -1.75
    • -4.4%
  • GOOG
    (Google Inc)
    • $596.08 USD
    • 6.81
    • 1.14%
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