SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - An Oracle attorney cited emails between top executives at Google as prime evidence that Google took its intellectual property to gain an edge in the lucrative smartphone market, at the start of a high stakes trial between the two tech giants.
Opening statements between Oracle Corp and Google Inc began on Monday in a San Francisco federal court. Oracle sued Google in August 2010 over patent and copyright claims for the Java programming language.
According to Oracle, Google’s Android operating system tramples on its intellectual property rights to Java, which it acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2010. Google says it does not violate Oracle’s patents and that Oracle cannot copyright certain parts of Java.
The trial before U.S. District Judge William Alsup is expected to last at least eight weeks.
Oracle attorney Michael Jacobs said Google took copyrighted Java “blueprints” to harness the creative power of millions of Java software developers, so they then could write applications for Android. However, Google never obtained the proper license, he said.
“You can’t just step on someone’s IP because you have a good business reason for it,” Jacobs said.
Google’s opening statement is scheduled to take place on Tuesday morning. Spokesman Jim Prosser said Google is confident in its defenses, and that Oracle’s legal claims threaten the broad goal of making software systems work together smoothly.
Jacobs displayed several Google emails to the jury, which were relayed to the courtroom gallery on a high definition screen. In 2005, Android chief Andy Rubin sent one to Google co-founder Larry Page proposing to take a license to Java.
“We’ll pay Sun for the license,” Rubin wrote.
But according to Jacobs, a May 2007 email from Rubin to then-CEO Eric Schmidt shows that Google consciously decided against taking a license. Some spectators in the packed courtroom strained to read the email, displayed alongside photos of Rubin and Schmidt.
“I‘m done with Sun (tail between my legs, you were right),” Rubin wrote to Schmidt. “They won’t be happy when we release our stuff.”
Google’s Prosser said Java inventors cheered Android when it was released. But Jacobs told the jury that Sun executives were not happy behind closed doors, regardless of what they said publicly.
Before jury selection began, Alsup warned both companies that they should not expect to keep sensitive financial information secret.
“This is a public trial,” he said.
Jacobs did not divulge any financial details about Android during his presentation on Monday.
Early on in the case, estimates of potential damages against Google ran as high as $6.1 billion. But Google has narrowed Oracle’s claims to only two patents from seven originally, reducing the possible award. Oracle is seeking roughly $1 billion in copyright damages.
A retired teacher, a U.S. postal worker and a store designer for Gap Inc were among the jurors selected on Monday to decide the case. The seven-woman, five-man jury also included a retired photographer, an avid hiker and a nurse.
Jacobs told Alsup that Oracle’s CEO, Larry Ellison, would likely be Oracle’s first live trial witness. Ellison could take the stand as early as Tuesday. Oracle also said in a court filing on Sunday that it expected Google CEO Larry Page to be among its first witnesses.
Ellison will testify about the importance of Java to Oracle’s business and the harm Android has caused the company, according to the witness list.
The testimony from Page, a relatively reclusive figure, could include details about Google’s business plan and marketing strategy for Android, including the company’s recent acquisition of Motorola, the witness list shows.
The trial will have three phases: copyright liability, patent claims, and damages. Page could also testify about revenue and profit projections for Android, including advertising revenue, the witness list said.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is Oracle America, Inc v. Google Inc, 10-3561.
Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Richard Chang, Lisa Von Ahn, Prudence Crowther and M.D. Golan