Talk about a Battle of the Tech Titans! No less than Oracle’s outspoken, brash, and pioneering founder and helmsman Larry Ellison gave scathing testimony in a San Francisco jury trial against search giant Google’s alleged improper use of Oracle’s intellectual property. The trial centers on Oracle’s claim that the Mountain View-based search engine behemoth ripped off Oracle software in order to build the hugely popular Android mobile device operating system.
On Tuesday, April 17, both Larry Page, CEO and co-founder of Google, and Oracle’s very own Larry Ellison traded testimonies in a crowded federal courtroom. Think of it as the battle between the dueling Larrys. Ellison’s contention is that Google didn’t bother to take out one of three available Java licenses even when it was told to do so. Google used the Java code to build the Android mobile OS which has overtaken Apple’s own iOS mobile operating system in global popularity. For its part, Google made the counter argument that the search leader only used the open source parts of Java for Android. Since, Google claims, that these portions cannot be copyrighted, they didn’t have to take out licenses.
How did these two players come to butt heads in court? The Java software platform at the center of this courtroom drama was not developed by Oracle, it was built by pioneering software and server powerhouse Sun Microsystems. However, Sun was swallowed up by Oracle in a massive 7.4 billion dollar deal back in January of 2010. Shortly thereafter, in August 2010, Oracle slapped Google with the Android lawsuit. Google, for its part, bought Android Inc way back in August 2005.
Ellison countered Google’s argument by saying that just because a piece of intellectual property is open source does not mean you have absolutely no obligations. Oracle’s lead attorney David Boies pushed this point hard specially during his cross-examination of Larry Page. In one exchange during the cross exam, the two battled it out over the term “must take a license from Sun” which was included in Google Android development documents. Page said that the license requirement did not fit his understanding of Java technology. Boies was puzzled at Page’s interpretation since the phrase contained in the Google document seemed very clear and straightforward. Boies pressed Page if he requested anyone in the design team to copy Java into Android’s code. Page said he didn’t recall.
The Google side’s cross-examination of Larry Ellison focused around Google’s theory that Oracle was only trying to attack Android’s IP base because Oracle once tried to pursue its own smart phone product but did not succeed Ellison did admit that Oracle once considered acquiring its way into the smart phone space by buying out either Palm or Researh in Motion, the maker of Blackberry. However, he said Oracle decided against it and thought it was a bad idea. He said that Oracle did not seek to partner with Google to enter the smart phone business, but he did admit that he did speak with two of Google’s key leaders regarding integrating a more up to date version of Java into the Android OS to bring the OS up to “industry standards.”