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Google Was Never Told by Sun to License Java, Schmidt Says

April 24, 2012

Google Inc. Chairman Eric Schmidt testified that his company developed the Android operating system using the Java programming language after partnership talks with Sun Microsystems Inc. fell through and Sun made no demand for a license to use Java.

Sun sought $30 million to $50 million and tight control over Java’s use for Android, Schmidt told jurors today in federal court in San Francisco during Oracle Corp. (ORCL:US)’s trial against Google. When deal negotiations fell through in 2006, Google built the Android software for mobile devices using aspects of the Java platform without infringing on Sun’s intellectual property, he said. Oracle now owns Java.

Schmidt said that based on his understanding of Sun’s licensing requirements for Java, Google’s use of the programming language’s tools in Android without a license was “permissible” and “legally correct.” He said Jonathan Schwartz, who started as Sun’s chief executive officer in April 2006, never asked the search engine operator to take a license.

Oracle is seeking $1 billion in damages and a court order blocking sales of Android, now running on more than 300 million smartphones, unless Mountain View, California-based Google pays for a license.

“Schwartz didn’t express any concerns about the use of Java?” Robert Van Nest, Google’s lawyer, asked Schmidt today. “Did he complain?”

Technical Officer

“He did not,” said Schmidt, a former chief technical officer at Sun who was the primary executive in charge of Java.

“Did he tell you that you needed a license to use Java’s APIs,” or application programming interfaces? Van Nest asked.

“He did not,” Schmidt said.

Google plans to call Schwartz as a witness, according to a court filing.

Oracle acquired Java as part of its 2010 takeover of Sun. The Redwood City, California-based database maker alleges that Google infringed copyrights on 37 APIs -- tools programmers use to create applications using Java -- and infringed two Java patents.

Schmidt said Java, a free programming language, is useless without the APIs, which are used to tell computers how to print, sort and perform other applications. Google implemented the Java language and APIs, not Java source code, which would require a license, he told the jury.

David Boies, Oracle’s attorney, showed Schmidt e-mails written by Google engineers saying the company needed a Java license.

‘People Responsible’

“Were you told in 2005 that the people responsible for Android believed Google must take a license for Java?” Boies asked.

“I don’t recall, but given the way the Sun licensing model works this is actually not correct,” Schmidt said.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who is presiding over the trial, said Schmidt’s answer wasn’t responsive to the question and ordered jurors to disregard it.

Schmidt said today that Sun co-founder Scott McNealy, who preceded Schwartz as CEO, saw the Android partnership with Google as a way to boost revenue.

“He understood the benefit of having a billion users,” Schmidt testified. “I took that to mean he wanted money.”

McNealy said in an e-mail shown to the jury that he supported “taking a risk with Java” to develop open source smartphone software. “I just need to understand the economics,” McNealy said in the e-mail.

Witness Lists

McNealy isn’t on either companies’ lists of potential witnesses at this time.

The trial, expected to last eight weeks, is divided into three phases. Oracle rested its case today for the first phase, which deals with copyright infringement. Google began its defense of those claims today, and the jury is expected to deliberate on those claims as early as next week.

The next phases of the trial will be patent claims and damage claims.

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

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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