Oracle Corp. (ORCL) Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison testified that he considered making a smartphone with its Java programming language before suing Google Inc. for using parts of Java in its Android software.
“We explored that idea and decided it would be a bad idea,” Ellison said yesterday under questioning by Google lawyer Robert Van Nest.
Five months before filing a patent and copyright lawsuit against the search engine company in March 2010, Ellison met at his San Francisco-area home with Google Chairman Eric Schmidt to discuss a joint smartphone project that would use Oracle’s version of Java on Android, by then running on millions of devices, Ellison, 67, told federal court jurors yesterday.
A year earlier, Ellison had looked at buying BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) or phone-maker Palm Inc. Ultimately, Oracle didn’t pursue acquisition as a means to develop a Java smartphone and didn’t reach a deal with Schmidt, Ellison said. Oracle sued Google and is now seeking $1 billion in damages over claims its use of Java software requires it to pay licensing fees.
Van Nest told the jury before Ellison took the stand that Oracle, because it was unable to make a Java phone, sued Google to cash in on its success with Android. Google doesn’t need a license to use parts of Java, which is free, and it developed Android mostly from scratch, he said.
“It’s not about them protecting intellectual property or protecting the Java community,” Van Nest said of Oracle’s claims. “They want to share in Android’s success without having done a thing to bring that about.”
Ellison, the first witness to testify in person at the trial, said the idea of a Java phone percolated as Oracle prepared to buy Java creator Sun Microsystems Inc. Extending Java’s use in mobile technology was desirable, though not the primary motivation for acquiring Sun, he said. While Java is an “open source” computer language that is free, companies must still take out a license to use aspects of the Java platform, he said.
Talks with Google were aimed at making Android compatible with Oracle’s version of Java, said Ellison, who founded Oracle in 1977 and is now the world’s seventh-richest man according to Bloomberg.
“Just because something is open source doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want with it,” Ellison said.
$7.4 Billion Deal
Java, created by Sun Microsystems in the mid-1990s, lets developers write programs that work across different operating systems and on a variety of computers. A key building block of the Internet, it’s widely used in business applications. The software also runs on billions of mobile devices. Redwood City, California-based Oracle, the largest maker of database software, acquired Sun in 2010 for $7.4 billion.
Google relies on Android, the most popular U.S. smartphone operating system, to compete with Apple Inc. (AAPL) in the mobile-phone market and to cut its dependence on traditional Web-search advertising. Google is the world’s largest Internet-search company.
Oracle’s attorneys said they will call Google CEO Larry Page to testify today. Page may be questioned about internal Google e-mails in which employees said the Mountain View, California-based company should license Java.
In a videotape of Page’s deposition shown to the jury yesterday, the Google co-founder was questioned by Oracle attorney David Boies about a 2005 product strategy meeting document written by senior executives. Those executives said in the memo that Google needed a license for Java from Sun.
“That’s not consistent with my understanding of Java,” Page said.
The document is “asserting that Google was required to take some kind of license,” Boies said.
“I agree that’s written here but I don’t agree with the statement,” Page said.
Oracle alleges Google infringed copyrights on 37 Java application programming interfaces, or APIs, which are used for building software applications. The arrangement and structure of APIs Google used are original expressions that are copyrightable, Oracle’s attorneys have said.
Oracle also alleges that Google infringed two Java patents that a court-appointed expert estimated are worth $2.8 million in damages.
The trial in San Francisco is expected to last eight weeks. The first phase will deal with allegations of copyright infringement. Phase two will address the patent claims. If jurors find that Oracle’s intellectual property was infringed, they will decide in a third phase whether the company is entitled to damages.
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