Oracle Says Judge’s Expert Biased in $1 Billion Google-Java Case

  • BYU professor's earlier `Android hat' seen disqualifying him
  • Replacing witness could extend case to 2017, U.S. judge warns

Oracle Corp. says it can’t get a fair shake from an economics professor serving as a damages expert in its billion-dollar court battle with Google over the Java platform.

The professor is no typical hired gun. The judge overseeing the case brought him in four years ago because he didn’t trust either company to give him a straight assessment.

Oracle’s five-year-old lawsuit accuses Google of using its Java programming code without paying for it because Google was in a rush to create Android, now the world’s most popular smartphone platform. Oracle claims James Kearl, a Brigham Young University professor, showed himself to be partial to Google when he testified last year for Samsung Electronics Co. South Korea-based Samsung, which makes smartphones powered by Google’s Android system, was embroiled in litigation over claims it infringed Apple Inc.’s patents.

Showdown

The showdown between Google and Oracle has returned to U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco after a pit stop at the U.S. Supreme Court, where Google lost a bid to derail the case. The damages Oracle now seeks may exceed $1 billion since it expanded its claims to cover newer Android versions.

After a hearing Thursday in which lawyers for both sides reiterated their positions, Alsup declined to immediately rule. He said that, no matter which side he lands on, a “professionally pure” expert is necessary for such a complex case.

The judge cautioned the lawyers that replacing Kearl may delay the long-running case by another 18 months.

Closely Tied

“Of all the experts in the county, there should not be an expert in this case that is so closely tied with Google and Google Android,” Oracle lawyer Matt Bush told Alsup. Google lawyer Dan Purcell rejected the premise, telling the judge that Kearl’s testimony in the Samsung case had nothing to do with the current dispute.

Oracle has said the disqualification is warranted because “having an expert wear the hat of a neutral party in this case when he previously wore an Android hat is prejudicial to Oracle and risks injecting complications into the case that should be avoided.”

Oracle also argued Kearl’s expertise isn’t needed because the case is less complex now that patent claims are no longer at issue. Google responded that Oracle is using “innuendo to accuse Dr. Kearl of being a partisan for Google and Android.”

“There is no reason whatsoever to think Dr. Kearl will favor Google, or do anything other than give honest testimony,” Google said in an Oct. 29 filing.

Kearl told the court that he sees no conflict of interest in having testified at the Apple-Samsung trial while continuing to serve as Alsup’s expert in the Oracle-Google case.

“I was not retained by Google, did not side with Google, and my analysis and opinions were not about Google, Google products or Android,” he said. “My work and analysis related solely to the value of certain features on Apple products.”

The case is Oracle America Inc. v. Google Inc., 10-cv-03561, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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