Judge Blasts Google, Oracle In Patent Dispute Case
In a hearing late last week, District Court Judge William Alsup informed both sides that they are "both asking for the moon and should be more reasonable." The judge questioned Oracle's estimate that Google had caused between $1.6-$6.1B in damages, particularly considering the fact that the lawyer who came up with that figure had been paid $700 an hour by Oracle to do so. At the same time, he scoffed at Google's claims that the money it's made through advertising on Android devices has no relation to the Android operating system. Google's counter to Oracle's $6.1B claim was to argue that Android was essentially valueless and that it therefore couldn't owe Oracle any money.
Other arguments have flown thick and fast. In 2006, Google rejected a $100M offer from Sun that would've given the search giant access to Java; the company claims this agreement would've been a broad partnership to jointly develop Android as opposed to a single patent license. Alsup has rejected Google's claim that it should be allowed to pay $100M simply because that's what Sun offered five years ago, but agreed that the amount should serve as a baseline for Oracle's revised damages.
One reason Alsup rejected Oracle's claims is that the patents in question "certainly do not cover all of Java or all of Android... It seems highly unlikely that Android derives its entire value from a small set of infringing features, given its breadth... The next report must apportion the total value between the specific infringing features versus the rest of Android."
Google, meanwhile, hasn't gotten everything it might want. In addition to dismissing the company's argument that it owed Oracle nothing, the judge read from an email submitted by Oracle as evidence in the case. The email, which dates from 2010, is from a discussion by Google engineers. It reads, in part:
What we’ve actually been asked to do by Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] is to investigate what technical alternatives exist to Java for Android and Chrome. We’ve been over a bunch of these and think they all suck. We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need.That email put the kibosh on any plans Google might have had to claim unintentional infringement. After reading the above, Alsup warned Google's lawyers that they would "be on the losing end of this document—with Andy Rubin on the stand. If willful infringement is found, there are profound implications for a permanent injunction."
As we've previously noted, the legal issues surrounding Android could damage the OS's popularity with handset manufacturers. Of all the companies currently engaged in anti-Android activities, Oracle is the farthest removed from the action. Unlike Microsoft or Apple, it has no direct stake in the fight, but the company's conduct implies it would sooner kill Android than license Java in a mutually beneficial manner.