Oracle Focuses on Internal Google Emails in Copyright Case

Google's Android project leader acknowledges that he knew his company needed a license to use Java in the mobile device operating system.

Oracle on April 23 focused legal efforts on its most compelling evidence€”the internal emails of Google decision-makers€”as the second week of court testimony began in its copyright and patent lawsuit against the search and Web services giant.

Oracle is charging Google with stealing parts of its Java software suite to help build its highly successful Android mobile device operating system. Oracle is seeking about $1 billion in damages and a possible injunction against Google using the software.

Google contends that it used only freely available open-source Java for its implementation, and that it did not require a license from Oracle for that.


The central issue, however, is whether Java application programming interfaces (APIs) are part of the open-source Java package. Since APIs are made up of software, specifications and techniques, and techniques are not copyrightable, it remains for the court to sort this out for legal precedent.

Oracle claims in the lawsuit that the "specifications and implementations of the APIs are not a method of operation or system."
Android Project Leader Takes Stand

Andy Rubin, who runs Google's Android development team, took the witness stand April 23 for questioning by Oracle's lead counsel, David Boies.

Rubin acknowledged that in 2005 Google originally wanted to form a partnership with Sun Microsystems that would have given it the green light to use all parts of the Java platform for its upcoming mobile device operating system.

"We were in discussion with Sun for quite some time," Rubin said. "Partnership was my main objective."

But that never happened, and when Oracle acquired Sun in January 2010 for $7.4 billion, the change in ownership ended up not making a difference.

On Day 3 of the trial on April 18, Google CEO Larry Page testified that he believed his company was using only freely available open-source Java source code and tools to help his team get Android finished and out to device makers in the company's quest to compete with Apple's iOS.

"I'm not sure whether or not we got a license to anything," Page told presiding Judge William Alsup and the 12-person jury. "We only used elements of the Java programming language that are freely available in the public domain. When we weren't able to reach terms on a partnership [with Oracle], we went down our own path."

Internal Google Emails Shown to Jury

On April 16, Day 1 of the trial, Oracle attorney Michael Jacobs showed the jury a group of Google emails from 2005 to help state the case. In that year, several months before Sun released Java to the open-source community in November 2006, Rubin sent an email to Page proposing to buy a license for Java and its APIs.

"We'll have to pay Sun for the license," Rubin said in the email.

But an email two years later from Rubin to then-CEO Eric Schmidt shows that Mountain View, Calif.-based Google "consciously decided against taking a license," Jacobs said.

"I'm done with Sun (tail between my legs, you were right)," Rubin wrote to Schmidt. "They [Sun] won't be happy when we release our stuff."

On April 23, Boies told the court that the emails make it clear that Google knew all along that it needed a license from Oracle in order to use Java and its APIs to put the connectivity into Android.

In one email that Boies showed the court, Rubin wrote that the Java.lang API was covered by a copyright. He jousted with Boies a bit in the subsequent questioning.

"You meant copyrighted by Sun, right?" Boies asked.

"I didn't say that," Rubin said.

"But you meant Sun, yes?" Boies asked.

"Yes, in the context of this I think that I meant the APIs were copyrighted," Rubin responded.

"By Sun?" Boies asked.

"Yes," replied Rubin.

Boies or a member of his Oracle team will continue questioning Rubin April 24, when Google Executive Chairman Schmidt is also scheduled to testify.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...