updated 03:40 pm EST, Mon February 6, 2012
Google denied appeal on mail shwoing patent issue
Google on Monday lost an appeal trying to keep an incriminating e-mail out of Oracle's lawsuit over Android patents and copyrights. The court rejected Google's view that engineer Tim Lindholm's message, which told top staff that they needed a Java license for Android, was subject to attorney-client privilege. Lindholm had been talking to regular Google employees and not lawyers, the federal appeals court said, making it a valid part of discovery.
The decision gives Oracle definitive access to what's considered a smoking gun for the case. Lindholm had been exploring alternatives to Java so that the company could avoid having to pay a license fee for every Android device sold. He told the company's mobile VP Andy Rubin, along with co-foudners Sergey Brin and Larry Page, that the alternatives weren't technically feasible and a license was necessary.
Google has won some concessions in the lawsuit, such as a three-phase process that will let it opt for a settlement early and reduced damage claims that would prevent Oracle from demanding billions. The Lindholm e-mail, however, makes it impossible for the company to deny that it knew it needed to license technology from Oracle. As such, it could owe hundreds of millions of dollars or more, both in back pay and possibly for ongoing royalties.
Android's core is based around a custom just-in-time Java engine known as Dalvik. The code isn't just considered similar enough to have prompted concerns but, in some cases, has directly borrowed code from the Sun era of Java that leaves little doubt as to the origin. [via Bloomberg]