updated 07:05 pm EDT, Mon April 16, 2012
Oracle starts off Google lawsuit with use of mail
Oracle formally kicked off the trial in its copyright and patent lawsuit against Google by citing telling Google e-mail. One of the plaintiff's lawyers, Michael Jacobs, referred to messages from Google engineers and executives that the company likely needed a license from Oracle to keep implementing Java in Android. The attorney saw this as evidence that Google knew it had done something wrong and simply hoped to hold out.
An example included statements by Google's mobile VP and Android co-founder Andy Rubin, who not only mentioned trouble negotiating a license but also that Google could be "making enemies." Jacobs interpreted this as as sign that Google knew it might antagonize copyright and patent holders. Among evidence, he pointed to the US Constitution's references to copyright protection and Google actively telling staff not to show Android to Sun workers at trade events before Sun had been acquired by Oracle.
Most of the trial as defined will center on questions of whether or not an app programing interface (API) can be copyrighted. Oracle has taken the view that an API is a special work, while Google defines an API as just an instrument to create code that itself might be copyrightable. If Google can define elements like API as unprotected, Oracle's case could fall apart, as the need for a license itself would be void.
Google is due to present countering arguments on Tuesday. Whether or not it succeeds in questioning Oracle's view, it has already managed a key win in having the San Francisco-based trial split into three phases, where copyrights, patents, and remaining issues are tackled individually. The strategy could see it make an offer if it loses early or persevere if it believes it has a chance at winning the case.
Any verdict could have major ramifications if Google and Oracle choose not to settle. A Google win could set a precedent against API copyrights and would make any attempt by Oracle to collect on Java more difficult. An Oracle win could not only see more widespread charging to use APIs but could have a chilling effect on Android. Oracle has had to scale back damage claims, but it may still have to pay ongoing royalties and potentially add a cost to the normally free Android license. [via Mercury News and Dan Levine]