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Google, Oracle CEOs Accuse Other Of Misusing Tech

04/17/2012 | 02:34pm US/Eastern
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--Google, Oracle CEOs testify at Java trial in San Francisco

--Google CEO says considered paying for a Java license

--Oracle CEO says company considered buying Palm or Research In Motion

(Adds more from testimony of Oracle CEO, beginning in paragraphs 8, 18 and 23.)

 
   By John Letzing 
   Of  
 

The chief executives of Silicon Valley giants Google Inc. (>> Google Inc) and Oracle Corp. (ORCL) went head-to-head Tuesday in a San Francisco courtroom, each telling a jury that the other had misused Oracle's Java technology.

The dramatic showdown came on the second day of a trial held in San Francisco to determine whether Google's Android operating system for mobile devices infringes patents and copyrights associated with Oracle's Java technology.

In recorded testimony presented to the jury by Oracle, Google CEO Larry Page acknowledged that at a certain point Google considered paying for a license to Java. "There were deals discussed to where we were going to make payments," Page said.

In a surprising piece of testimony, Page also said Google at one point considered using mobile software from Microsoft Corp. (>> Microsoft Corporation) instead of Java.

"They would be the other logical provider," Page said. Google is a bitter rival of Microsoft's. The companies compete in online advertising and software applications.

Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, testifying in person, said Oracle must protect its intellectual property if it wants to continue funding research and development.

While Java was developed to be open to the public, Ellison said, those using it must make their alterations available to everyone else. Google's improper use of the technology for Android creates the risk of having "multiple dialects of Java," he said.

The Oracle CEO added that he met with both Page and Eric Schmidt, the former Google CEO, to ask that Android be made "compatible with the industry standard version of Java," but with no success.

Ellison also admitted to considering other strategic moves regarding the mobile market, including a purchase of Palm Inc. or Research in Motion Ltd. (RIMM). RIM was too expensive at that time, he said, and Palm was ultimately acquired by Hewlett-Packard Co. (>> Hewlett-Packard Company)

The day began with a stern admonition from Judge William Alsup that the case to be argued involved only a relatively small amount of intellectual property related to Java--regardless of the large amount of damages Oracle has argued is at stake.

"It is not Java against Android," Alsup said. Oracle, if victorious in court, is expected to press for an award of about $1 billion, down from its earlier estimate of $6 billion in damages. Google, meanwhile, said potential total damages could be less than $100 million.

Google attorney Robert Van Nest, in his opening statement Tuesday, told the jury that the case isn't about Oracle protecting its intellectual property, but rather whether or not Oracle should be allowed to "a share of Google's success."

"They want a share of Android's profits," the attorney added.

As an open-source project, Android is provided free to mobile-device makers. But Google does make some revenue from related mobile advertising and software applications, in addition to the significant leverage Android lends Google in the smartphone market.

According to recent data, Android has grown in popularity to become the world's most-popular smartphone software platform.

In its own opening statement Monday, Oracle's legal team argued that Google improperly used Java to build Android, with full knowledge of top executives at the Mountain View, Calif., company.

Oracle, of Redwood Shores, Calif., obtained Java in 2010 when it bought Sun Microsystems, which had developed Java in the 1990s. Oracle filed suit against Google some eight months later.

As Oracle negotiated to buy Sun, Ellison said, former Sun employee James Gosling--considered the father of Java--told him that Sun had wanted to build a Java-based smartphone but never mustered funding for the project.

Ellison said Gosling's remarks were in reply to his own suggestion for a Java-based smartphone that would compete directly with Apple Inc.'s (>> Apple Inc.) iPhone.

Oracle is asserting two Java-related patents and alleging Google has infringed copyrights associated with the technology. In particular, Oracle said that Google infringed copyrights protecting interfaces in Java, or so-called APIs, and that Google has unfairly altered the technology to its own advantage.

But Google's attorney argued Tuesday that Sun intended for the interfaces to be available to anyone. "That was the whole point," Google's attorney said. "They wanted to hook people on Java."

The attorney also played video for the jury of Ellison appearing at a Sun developers' conference in which Ellison assured developers that Java would remain open to the public, adding they should expect to see "lots and lots of Java devices, some coming from our friends at Google."

During his in-person testimony, Ellison said he did not recall making the comment about Google.

-By John Letzing, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-765-8230; john.letzing@dowjones.com

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