Ellison Raps Google for Not Licensing Java

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2012-04-18 Print this article Print

Oracle and Google lawyers took turns accusing each other of improprieties in the case, in which Oracle has asked for about $1 billion in damages and may seek an injunction against Google using the Java APIs it claims to own for licensing.

Day 2 of the Oracle versus Google intellectual property argument over who owns which part of the open-source Java programming language featured testimony by a couple of key Larrys and Google's first defense against Oracle's opening-day barrage of charges in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Oracle co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison appeared to be comfortable testifying April 17 in his company's lawsuit against Google over what it claims to be illegal use of Java APIs in the creation of the Android mobile device operating system.


Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page also spent a few minutes at the end of the session answering questions in front of the judge and 12-person jury but did not delve into anything of substance. He will continue his testimony on Wednesday.

Taking Turns With Accusations

The two IT giants took turns accusing each other of improprieties in the case, in which Oracle has asked for about $1 billion in damages and may seek an injunction against Google using the Java APIs it claims to own for licensing.


"Google is the only company I know that hasn't taken a license for Java," Ellison said. "I met with [former Google CEO, now executive chairman] Eric Schmidt in 2010 to discuss a joint project in which Google would use Oracle's version of Java in its Android software for smartphones rather than their own version of Java."

But the companies never set down an agreement, Ellison said.

Google went on to create Android by itself using Java and other open-source software components. "But just because something is open source doesn't mean you can do whatever you want with it," Ellison said.

Ellison said that the $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems, which invented Java in the early 1990s, was "by far the most important purchase Oracle has made" in its 35 years and that the intellectual property that came with the purchase--especially the Java franchise--is crucial to the company's future.

Oracle Once Considered Marketing a Smartphone

Google trial counsel Robert Van Nest asked Ellison if Oracle had ever intended to create its own smartphone to compete with Apple's iPhone and Google.

Ellison acknowledged this was true but denied approaching Google about building smartphone software in a joint project. "That turned out to be a bad idea," Ellison said.

"The idea was building the smartphone using Java FX, and then to charge carriers like Verizon for it," Ellison said. Ellison said that at different times Oracle had discussed the merits of entering the highly competitive smartphone market. The CEO said the company looked at buying BlackBerry maker Research In Motion and Palm Computing, but those deals didn't come to fruition.

In explaining his client's defense, Van Nest attacked Oracle's claim that Google's Android operating system was built without authorization alongside Oracle's Java patents and copyrights. Van Nest said in no uncertain terms that "this case is about Oracle trying to share in Google's success. They want to share Android's profits without having done a thing to bring that about."

Oracle, of course, sees the case from an entirely different point of view. While the Java language itself belongs to the open-source community and is free of charge to use, it still must be licensed for commercial deployments under the GNU Public License. The application programming interfaces of Java may be another matter, since APIs have been interpreted as both specifications and as techniques.

This could potentially become a landmark one in deciding the precise definition of an API.

Background on the Case

Oracle first filed suit in August 2010, claiming that Google illegally used seven Java APIs that Oracle owns to help build the Android operating system. Google contends that the APIs it uses cannot be copyrighted because doing so would be similar to copyrighting a technique used to perform a task. Legally, techniques are not considered intellectual property.

Oracle lead attorney Michael Jacobs had asserted on April 16 that Oracle "will prove to you from beginning to end ... that Google knew it was doing the wrong thing. This case is about Google's use, in Google's business, of somebody else's property without permission," Jacobs said. "You can't just step on someone's IP because you think you have a good business reason for it."

Android, released in 2008 by Google to partners such as Samsung, HTC and other manufacturers to run smartphones and tablet PCs, now runs more than 300 million mobile devices.

Chris Preimesberger is eWEEK Editor for Features and Analysis. Twitter: @editingwhiz

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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