Google emails cast shadow over its defense against Oracle

Google may have known it was crossing an intellectual property line while creating its Android operating system, an email newly spotlighted in the Oracle-versus-Google trial has suggested.

At issue in the case is whether Google’s incorporation of Java programming language — former property of Sun Microsystems, now property of Oracle — into Android was “fair use” as claimed by Google, or a licensing violation, as Oracle argues. A witness in the case has estimated that Android’s profits could put Google at risk of $9 billion in damages; Google has said that “makes no sense.”

This week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, an email from former Android head Andy Rubin cast a shadow over a claim Rubin and Google executives have made repeatedly in the six-year legal fight, according to a Fortune report Friday.

“This particular exchange involving Rubin, which has not drawn attention before, would seemingly undercut Google’s argument that it didn’t think it needed a license to use Java for building Android,” the Fortune article said.

During four hours of the most aggressive cross examination of a Google witness yet seen in the case, according to news site Ars Technica, Oracle lawyer Annette Hurst questioned Rubin about several emails, including the one that hadn’t been spotlighted before.

“In another e-mail exchange, Rubin was asked about another company’s plan to use Java,” Ars Technica reported. “‘Wish them luck,’ Rubin wrote. ‘Java.lang.apis are copyrighted. and sun [sic] gets to say who they license.'”

Hurst also brought up an email that had been discussed previously in court and raised similar questions about Google’s knowledge of the licensing requirements. In the 2010 email, Google software engineer Tim Lindholm tells Rubin that Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had requested “technical alternatives to Java.”

“We’ve been over a bunch of these, and we think they all suck,” Lindholm wrote, according to Ars Technica. “We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for java under the terms we need.”

Rubin acknowledged he’d seen the message, the site reported.


Photo: Google co-founder Larry Page at Google headquarters in Mountain View in 2007 (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)


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