Oracle confronts Google's Schmidt about Java [San Jose Mercury News, Calif.]
(San Jose Mercury News (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 25--SAN FRANCISCO -- They may have failed to negotiate a partnership agreement, but top executives at Sun Microsystems never complained or objected when Google (GOOG) used parts of Sun's Java programming system to create the popular Android mobile platform, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt testified in federal court Tuesday.
Instead, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz congratulated Google and applauded Android when it was launched in 2007, Schmidt told jurors during the trial of a billion-dollar lawsuit in which software giant Oracle (ORCL) has accused Google of infringing Java copyrights that Oracle acquired when it bought Sun in 2010.
"I was very comfortable that what we were doing was legally correct" and consistent with Sun's policies, said Schmidt, who was a longtime executive at Sun when Java was developed in the 1990s, before he became CEO of Google.
Schmidt gave little ground to Oracle attorneys during three hours on the witness stand Tuesday, although he admitted he knew of no other commercial venture that uses the Java elements known as application programming interfaces, or APIs, without a
license from Sun or Oracle. He also said he didn't recall attending a 2005 presentation in which a Google executive said the company would need to negotiate a license agreement with Sun.
While he echoed earlier statements by Google's co-founder and current CEO, Larry Page, Schmidt seemed far more comfortable in the courtroom, giving answers that were both more direct and more detailed than Page had offered in testimony last week.
The high-stakes case is being closely watched in Silicon Valley, since it could affect the future use of both Java, a widely used programming system, and Android, which has become the world's leading mobile operating software.
Both sides have agreed that Google was free to use the Java programming language when it built Android, since the language itself is in the public domain. But Oracle alleges Google used other Java programming tools that are proprietary, while Google argues it only used elements related to the language that aren't protected by copyright or patents.
Schmidt, who testified that he oversaw Java's development while he was chief technology officer at Sun, recalled the launch of the pioneering programming system as "almost like a religious movement."
To encourage Java's acceptance, Schmidt said, Sun released it under terms that would make it easier for other software developers to use it. Sun required developers to negotiate for a license if they wanted to use the Java trademark and be certified as compatible, he added. But Schmidt said it was always clear that developers could use the Java language to create their own programs -- which he said Google did -- as long as they did not copy Sun's proprietary programs.
"You could use Java under a license or you could make your own version and not call it Java," he said.
Google initially tried to negotiate a license with Sun because it wanted to use the Java trademark and some of Sun's proprietary programs, Schmidt added. But despite high-level contacts between Schmidt, Schwartz and Sun Chairman Scott McNealy -- whom Schmidt described as a mentor and good friend -- Schmidt said the talks broke down because Sun didn't agree with Google's plans to release Android under its own open-source license.
"At the highest level, the core issue had to do with control," said Schmidt, who added that Google was prepared to pay Sun $30 million to $50 million for the license.
Android is believed to be worth far more than that to Google, with some analysts pegging the figure in the billions. Schmidt acknowledged Tuesday that Android promotes the use of Google's Internet search engine, which produces advertising revenue. He did not give specifics, although more financial details may be revealed in a later phase of the trial.
Sun knew that Google used the Java language and related APIs because Google released that code to the public, Schmidt testified. But despite frequent contacts, Schmidt said he never heard a complaint from Schwartz or other Sun executives.
In earlier testimony, which was read to jurors Tuesday, Schmidt added: "It was my opinion that at the time Sun's management was comfortable that what we had done was free and clear of any Sun intellectual property."
Under questioning by Oracle attorney David Boies, Schmidt couldn't cite a specific conversation in which Schwartz expressed approval. Google attorneys, however, cited a blog post in which Schwartz praised Google and said Android's release "just strapped another set of rockets" under the Java community.
Contact Brandon Bailey at 408-920-5022; follow him at Twitter.com/BrandonBailey.
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