The shadowy cottage industry of companies paying bloggers to advocate for them suddenly has its slip showing.
A week ago, the San Jose, Calif. federal court that heard Oracle's recent lawsuit against Google alleging that the huge search company infringed upon its Java patents to build its Android mobile device operating system issued an order several days ago instructing the two companies to disclose the names of people commenting or reporting on the case who received money for their services.
Presiding Judge William Alsup said he did this because he was worried that both parties "may have retained or paid print or internet authors, journalists, commentators or bloggers who have and/or may publish comments on this issues in the case." He did not explain, however, how this paid blogging might have affected the outcome of the case, which Google won and that Oracle still may appeal.
In its response filed Aug. 17, Oracle revealed that it has been paying Germany-based copyright specialist Florian Mueller as a Tweeting and blogging consultant to talk about its side of the story.
This was no surprise to anyone following the case, however. Mueller, who writes a well-read blog called FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) Patents, has always been upfront about his professional relationship with Oracle in communications with journalists.
Blogger Claims He's Not Paid Specifically to Advocate for Oracle
Mueller's contract with Oracle prohibits him from spelling out exactly what Oracle pays him to do, but Mueller himself wrote that he is not paid to blog specifically about the case. "They pay me for consulting on antitrust issues especially related to standard-essential patents," he wrote.
For its part, Oracle also alleged in the court document that Google "maintains a network of direct and indirect 'influencers' to advance Google's intellectual property agenda." Oracle said this network is extensive and comprised of "attorneys, lobbyists, trade associations and bloggers."
Oracle said in the response that it has identified two such Google-funded "influencers": Ed Black, the head of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, and Jonathan Band, a lobbyist who includes the CCIA among his clients.
Not so, Google said.
In its own court response filed Aug. 17, the huge search and Web services company denied that it has paid any writer to lobby on its behalf in the blogosphere.
In a statement to the press issued the same day, Google said: "Our reply to the court is clear. No one on our side paid journalists, bloggers or other commentators to write about this case."
Oracle Still May Appeal First Verdict
Oracle on June 20 absorbed a legal defeat from Google by accepting zero financial damages in the first step of its quest to sue the search engine company for using Java application programming interfaces in Android without purchasing a license for them.
In the landmark IT court case that began April 16, Judge Alsup ruled May 31 that Java APIs used by Google in building the now-popular mobile-device operating system are open source in nature and not protected by copyright.
Oracle, plaintiff in the case and maintainer of the open-source Java programming language as well as organizer of its development community, reiterated that it will "vigorously" appeal the verdict. The company originally had asked for nearly $1 billion in restitution and an injunction against Google for using the Android OS in mobile devices.