In what deserves recognition as one of the technology trials of the century, Google is maintaining it didn't trespass on Oracle's intellectual property rights when it developed the Android operating system.
Google offered up its defense in a San Francisco federal court on Tuesday during a trial with potentially dramatic implications for the mobile operating system maker. Oracle is charging both copyright and patent infringement and wants Google to shell out $1 billion in damages.
Oracle also wants the court to block Google from distributing the open-source Android operating system without paying Oracle licensing fees. Oracle argued on Monday that Google recognized the need to license Java, which Oracle acquired when it bought Sun in 2010, in order to make Android work. Google vehemently disagrees.
"Google didn't need a license to use the Java language in Android," Bloomberg quoted Robert Van Nest, an attorney for Google, as telling the jury on Tuesday. But Oracle pulled out some potentially incriminating evidence against Google right out of the legal gates on Monday.
Oracle attorney Michael Jacobs showed the jury e-mails that he argued showed clearly how Googlers were working to disclose the fact that they were using Java code to develop Android. The October 2005 e-mail was from Google senior vice president Andy Rubin and said, "My proposal is that we take the license."
Another e-mail from February 2006 featured Google engineer Tim Lindholm explaining that the company was negotiating with Sun for a Java license. But there was a hitch. Google apparently didn't agree to the terms. The e-mail said, "You have to give back to the open source community."
There's plenty that is not yet known about the facts of the case, and it's rare for two tech titans of this magnitude to actually litigate. We asked Michael Disabato, managing vice president of network and telecom at Gartner, to offer his take on what has been revealed in the trial so far. He told us it will be interesting to see how the evidence shakes out.
"If this is legitimately licensable code then Google needs to license the code. However, if Google can prove in court that they clean room created a Java engine then they may have a chance," Disabato said. "But did Sun and Oracle copyright or patent or somehow trade-secret the Java language? There's too much we don't know."
Disabato painted a picture where Google loses. What would happen? It wouldn't mark the end of Android -- it would just require Google to pay more than $1 billion in damages and licensing fees to move ahead with its plans to dominate in the mobile world. Google has the money, and the mobile stakes are high.
"This is the patent trolls going after each other and right now they happen to be two of the biggest patent trolls out there: Google and Oracle," Disabato said. "Google has some patents they could trade for this. Android is in enough trouble without legal issues clouding the waters."