Sun Microsystems offered to license its Java technology to Google for $100 million (£61 million), a lawyer for Google has said, in an attempt to show that Oracle is out of touch as it seeks billions from Google for patent infringement.
Oracle and Google were in court on Thursday for a hearing in Oracle's lawsuit accusing Google of patent infringement in its Android OS. Judge William Alsup was in a feisty mood, warning Oracle that "this court is not a wholly-owned subsidiary of Oracle Corporation" and telling Google that Andy Rubin, who runs its Android business, will be "on the hot-seat" at trial.
Alsup also made it clear that he thinks Google's ad revenues are linked to the value of Android - something Google contests -- and that it will have to pay damages "probably in the millions ... maybe the billions" if it is found guilty of infringement.
Oracle sued Google last August, saying its Android OS violates seven Java-related patents, as well as Java copyrights, that Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems.
The hearing at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco was to hear Google's motion to have Oracle's damages expert excluded from the case. Robert Van Nest, an attorney for Google, told Alsup the expert failed to link Oracle's patents directly to his damages estimate, which Google says is between $1.4 billion and $6.1 billion.
The expert ignored that Sun offered Google a three-year, "all-in" royalty license for Java for $100 million, which Google rejected, Van Nest said. The offer was made when Google was just starting Android's development.
But if Google tried to negotiate a license for Java, Alsup asked, doesn't that show Google knew it was going to infringe Sun's patents all along?
"Tell me why there's not wilful infringement here?" he asked.
"The negotiation that took place was not a pure licensing negotiation," Van Nest replied. Google was trying to partner with Sun to co-develop Android, he said. When the talks failed, Google developed a "clean room" version of Java using technology it developed in-house or licensed from the Apache Software Foundation.
So why did Google think it needed a license? Alsup wanted to know.
"They were negotiating an agreement," Van Nest said. "They weren't saying we need a license to your technology. They came to Sun saying we have a product we'd like to build together. You guys have technology that might be useful, we have technology that might be useful, let's partner and build it."
If Alsup was tough on Van Nest, he was tougher on Oracle. He didn't say Thursday if he'll exclude Oracle's damages expert, but he clearly thinks the upper end of his damages estimate is too high.
"There's nothing in there but a guy who's being paid $700 an hour who comes up with $6 billion. Come on," Alsup said, after making Oracle tell the court how much its expert gets paid.
Steven Holtzman, an attorney for Oracle, told the judge Oracle has done enough to show that its patent claims support its request for so-called "entire market" damages.
"You can't even tell me now which claims you're going to assert at trial," Alsup shot back, "and you want me to gamble that whatever you decide on is going to meet the entire market rule? That is crazy and you're not going to get away with that."
Alsup has been pressuring Oracle to reduce the claims it will pursue at trial. It started with 132 and narrowed it this month to 50. The judge has suggested it should be two or three to avoid overwhelming the jury.