Oracle’s decision to open its copyright trial against Google by letting jurors compare CEO Larry Ellison and Google CEO Larry Page may have been a better opening move than a Queen’s Gambit in chess.
Page rarely looked directly at his inquisitor, Oracle lawyer David Boies, and repeatedly failed to give direct answers to questions, requiring Judge William Alsup to step in a few times.
Oracle wants Google to pay $1 billion in alleged infringement of copyrights and patents on Java, which was created by Sun Microsystems in the 1990s. Oracle bought Sun and with it, the valuable Java technology in 2010.
Android software is used in millions of smart phones and tablet computers.
Page did insist Google “did nothing wrong” when it used Java’s software technology to create Android for mobile devices. He said “we were very careful about what information we used and what we did not use.”
During one exchange in the packed courtroom Page couldn’t recall if Google ever negotiated a license for Java, a major topic throughout the case.
“I think everything is copyrighted by default, but I’m not sure,” he said.
By contrast, Ellison’s testimony to open the case was relaxed and polished and though he got a little testy under Robert Van Nest’s cross examination, he made points Oracle wanted to make.
Ellison testified Tuesday that he tried and failed to convince former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and later Page to partner with him to use Java to make a smart phone.
Although Page said Wednesday, when asked if he was in on the decision to break off negotiations with Oracle over Java: “I’m not sure we’ve ever broken off. I think we still continue to have discussions to this day.”
Boies had a tough time getting even yes or no answers out of Page even when asking if Google has a company policy against copyright violations.
That prompted the response that Google “did nothing wrong” but he finally added he did not know of any policy about that, but that they are “very careful.”
Boies asked about attempts to negotiate a license with Sun in 2005 to use Java software.
Page said he wasn’t aware of the details but he knew negotiations went on for a long time.
“I was a big proponent of Android acquisition,” Page said. He wanted Google to move into the mobile market with a platform that could be used easily on phones for searching and other data uses.
“You believed Android was a critical asset to Google?” Boies asked.
“Android was very important but I would not say it was critical,” Page responded.
The high stakes trial is being followed by a couple dozen reporters, nearly all using laptop computers and delivering stories and headlines direct from the courtroom.
Case: Oracle v. Google, No. C10-3561WHA