Oracle attorney Michael Jacobs came out swinging hard at Google on April 16 in his opening argument as the company began its $1 billion copyright-infringement lawsuit against the Web services giant in federal district court in San Francisco.
Jacobs, a partner in the Palo Alto, Calif.-based (APIs) Morrison & Foerster law firm, attempted to convince a 12-person jury and presiding Judge William Alsup that Google IT managers were quite aware that they used proprietary Java application programming interfaces owned by Oracle to create the Android mobile-device operating system — one that now runs more than 300 million smartphones and tablet PCs.
In an opening statement that went for about 60 minutes, Jacobs said 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.”
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.
Internal Google Emails Shown to Jury
Jacobs showed the jury a group of Google emails from 2005 to help state his case. In that year, several months before Sun released Java to the open-source community in November 2006, Google Android team manager Andy Rubin sent an email to Google co-founder Larry 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.”
Judge Cautions Both Teams About Evidence
At one point, Judge Alsup warned both legal teams that they will need “to show good cause for any evidence submitted at trial to be kept from the public,” and that unsavory details about either company might go into the public record.
“Unless it’s the recipe for Coca-Cola, it’s going to be public,” Alsup said. “If it reveals something embarrassing about the way one of these companies works, too bad. That’s going to be out there for the public to see.”
Google’s lawyers from the San Francisco firm of Keker & Van Nest will present their opening statements April 17.
Selection of the 12-person jury began early April 16 at the Phillip Burton Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in downtown San Francisco. The court clerk said the trial could go as long as 10 weeks.
Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle is asking the U.S. District Court in Northern California for $1 billion in damages and an injunction against Google from using its IP in Android.
Chris Preimesberger is eWEEK’s Editor for Features and Analysis. Twitter: @editingwhiz