Andy Rubin Spars with Oracle Attorney Over Old Emails

Oracle says the emails to and from Rubin show that Google knew it needed a license for Java to build Android

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Mon, April 23, 2012

IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau) — Andy Rubin, the head of Google's Android development team, took the witness stand for the first time Monday in Oracle's lawsuit accusing Google of patent and copyright infringement in its Android OS.

Rubin tussled with noted trial lawyer David Boies, acting for Oracle in the case, over emails that Rubin sent or received in 2005 and 2006, when Google was first starting its Android development.

Oracle has accused Google of infringing its Java patents and copyrights in Android. Google denies any wrongdoing, saying it built a "clean room" version of Java that does not contain any of Oracle's protected intellectual property.

Oracle says the emails are evidence that Google knew it needed a license for Java to build Android, but that it forged ahead without one because it failed to negotiate a Java license with Sun. Oracle acquired the rights to Java when it bought Sun two years ago.

In one of the emails, Rubin wrote: "I think a clean room implementation is unlikely because of the team[']s prior knowledge, and it would be uncharacteristically aggressive of us to position ourselves against the industry."

"So you're saying that team had too much prior knowledge to operate in a clean room environment, correct, sir?" Boies asked Rubin.

"I think that's reading a lot into that small sentence," Rubin answered. "I wouldn't go that far."

In another email, Rubin wrote that the Java.lang API (application programming interface) was covered by copyright.

"You meant copyrighted by Sun, yes?" Boies asked.

"I didn't say that," replied Rubin.

"But you meant Sun, yes?" asked Boies.

Rubin: "Yes, in the context of this I think that I meant the APIs were copyrighted."

"By Sun?" Boies pressed.

"Yes," replied Rubin.

The Android chief was questioned for only 25 minutes, since he was called to the stand shortly before the trial ended for the day. Oracle will resume his questioning Tuesday, when Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, is also expected to testify.

Earlier Monday, Oracle called Bob Lee, a former Google engineer who is now the CTO of mobile payments company Square, and John Mitchell, a computer science professor at Stanford University who Oracle hired as an expert witness in the case.

The trial is being held in three phases. This first, which could wrap up by Friday, is to determine the copyright accusations. The second is for the patent accusations, and the third will decide what damages Oracle will be awarded if it prevails on either of the first two.

That was the original plan anyway, although the judge in the case, William Alsup, indicated Monday that he might ask the jury to decide any copyright damages at the end of this first phase. That's because any damages will depend partly on whether Google's copyright infringement was wilful, and the judge has said Rubin's emails might be evidence of wilful infringement.

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