updated 08:20 pm EDT, Tue April 17, 2012
Google and Oracle CEOs take stand in trial
Both the CEOs of Google and Oracle testified on Tuesday in the just-started trial for Oracle's lawsuit over Java in Android with statements that may have returned some of the balance to Google. While expected, Google co-founder Larry Page insisted Google "didn't do anything wrong" in using Java. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison had brought the accusations of copying forward in a dinner meeting, but Oracle had never followed through with examples until the lawsuit, possibly because there "wasn't very strong evidence," according to Page.
In a potentially rift-creating statement, Page also partly contradicted e-mail statements about responsibility for Java licensing. He hadn't been directly in control of monitoring that Google staff didn't illegally copy any code, and placed any responsibility for this on mobile VP Andy Rubin. Google would take any violations "very seriously," Page said, although he didn't believe this had happened.
Oracle itself may have undermined some of its own argument. During his own testimony, Ellison could only answer "I don't know" when pressed by Google chief counsel Robert Van Nest over whether or not Java was free to use. The statement may have been a cautionary step, but it also suggested that Oracle's management hadn't been as actively concerned as to whether or not Google had actually broken Java licensing terms.
Java is often freely usable, but has terms that sometimes demand a commercial license. Google's approach so far has been to argue that it was only using the freely available components of Java. Oracle has disagreed and argued that some of the code clearly needed a license.
Google may have limited options for defense. Along with a key 2010 e-mail reacting to Oracle's legal threats with an exploration for a new license, engineer Tim Lindholm mentioned to Rubin in 2006 that he had been helping to try and reach a deal with Sun, Oracle's eventual acquisition target, on getting a "critical license" for Java before Android had even been revealed to the public.
The trial may still see a relatively light penalty for Google if it's found to have violated Oracle's copyrights and patents. A three-stage trial system could let it try to make a settlement early, and damages have been reduced from Oracle's desired billions down to as little as tens of millions. Google's main aim is to avoid a permanent injunction, which would effectively ban all of Android until Google developed a workaround. [via CNET and The Verge]