Google CEO Larry Page told a jury on Wednesday that he remembers little about Google’s attempts to negotiate a Java license from Sun, during 40 minutes of tense questioning in Oracle’s lawsuit against Google over Android.
“I don’t remember the details of when we were or were not negotiating with Sun, it seemed to go on for a long time,” Page told the jury at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Page also testified that he didn’t remember asking Google engineer Tim Lindholm to investigate possible alternatives to Java for use in Android. An email from Lindholm that concludes Google needed to negotiate a license for Java is seen as an important piece of evidence in the case.
Page told the court that he didn’t remember receiving the email.
The Google executive was on the stand for day three of the trial in Oracle’s lawsuit against Google, which accuses it of infringing Oracle’s Java patents and copyrights in Google’s Android OS. Oracle acquired Java when it bought Sun in 2010.
Google says it built Android using parts of Java that don’t require it to have a license and denies any wrongdoing.
Page seemed unwilling to give direct answers to some of the questions from David Boies, a well-known trial lawyer representing Oracle in the case.
“It is important you try to answer most questions ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ Judge William Alsup told Page at one point.
Boies asked Page if he knew that Sun wanted to avoid Java being fragmented into incompatible versions.
“You knew Sun wanted to avoid fragmentation?” Boies asked.
“It’s hard for me to speculate … it wouldn’t surprise me,” Page said.
“Is it your testimony that you would have to speculate to say if Sun wanted to avoid fragmentation of Java?” Boise asked.
“There are many parts of Java,” said Page.
The judge told Page again he had to answer yes or no, and Page eventually said he knew that Sun wanted to avoid fragmentation.
Page also testified that Android was important to Google in 2005, but not “critical.” And he acknowledged that Google does not have a policy in place that prohibits its engineers copying other companies’ code.
“I’m not aware of any such policy; I think we do a lot to protect intellectual property in our business,” he said.
Under questioning from Google’s own lawyer, Page said Google had wanted to use Java because it would save “a lot of time and trouble” in the development of Android.
“When we were unable to come to terms on that business partnership, we went down our own path,” Page said. “We took the free Java language and implemented it in a clean room,” meaning it developed the remaining Java components without looking at Sun’s code.
Oracle said it plans to call Page back to the witness stand later in the trial. It wants to question him about certain other Google documents, but the judge ruled Wednesday that those documents hadn’t been properly submitted yet as evidence.
James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James’s e-mail address is email@example.com