Business Software

Google Cites Schmidt Testimony in Android Suit Defense

Google wants a judge to throw out Java copyright infringement claims Oracle has lodged against the Android mobile OS, based partly on 17-year-old testimony from an unlikely source: Google executive chairman and former CEO Eric Schmidt.

"With respect to intellectual property rights, Sun strongly believes in -- and will defend -- the rights of intellectual property owners to maximize their returns on product implementations. At the same time, we believe that interface specifications are not protectable under copyright," Schmidt testified to Congress in 1994 while he was CTO of Java's previous owner, Sun Microsystems, according to a filing Google made late Monday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Meanwhile, "Oracle's copyright claim rests almost entirely on the use of the interface specifications (specifications for application programming interfaces, or APIs) in thirty-seven Java language API packages in Android," Google said.

Beyond the API specifications, Oracle is basing its copyright claim on "minimal alleged copying, concerning only 12 files out of over 50 thousand in Android," Google said. "A reasonable jury could only conclude that any such similarities are de minimis and thus not actionable."

Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger declined comment Tuesday on Google's filing.

A hearing on Google's motion is scheduled for Sept. 15.

Google's attempt to strike the copyright allegations is just the latest chapter in the case, which has been marked by a steady stream of colorful and sometimes acrimonious back-and-forth between the companies.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ruled that a draft e-mail that could potentially damage Google's position must remain public.

"What we've actually been asked to do by Larry and Sergey is to investigate what technology alternatives exist to Java for Android and Chrome," Google engineer Tim Lindholm wrote in the August 2010 e-mail, referring to Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. "We've been over a hundred of these and think they all suck. We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java."

Google had argued that the e-mail was subject to attorney-client privilege and shouldn't have been disclosed, but Alsup disagreed.

Oracle, which filed suit against Google in August 2010, also alleges that Android violates seven Java patents.

An Oracle expert originally concluded that Google would owe it up to US$6.1 billion, according to Google. But Alsup has ordered Oracle to reduce the scope of its damages claim, saying the expert overreached.

The case is set to go to trial on Oct. 31, although Alsup has indicated he'd prefer the sides reach a settlement before then.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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