Oracle, Google trial: Page vs. Ellison on the stand

Oracle, Google trial: Page vs. Ellison on the stand

Summary: One thing has become clear at the Oracle v. Google trial: CEOs Larry Ellison and Larry Page could not be more different from one another if they tried.

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TOPICS: Google, Oracle
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Ellison leaves the courtroom. Credit: James Martin, CNET

The CEOs of both Oracle and Google were called to testify earlier this week in the two's grand stand trial over intellectual property claims.

On the stand, it became clear that Larry Ellison and Larry Page could not be more different from one another if they tried.

One would clearly hope that both of these executives had been thoroughly prepped for cross-examination by their respective legal teams ahead of the long-awaited trial. They've certainly had enough time to do so since this lawsuit was first filed two years ago.

Ellison was the first to take the stand at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Tuesday morning. As ever, Ellison showed up confident and ready to talk. He answered most of the questions directly without hesitation, and he appeared to know what he was talking about when questioned by both Oracle and Google lawyers.

The only part where he might have seemed a little fazed -- or even hostile -- was when questioned by Google attorney Bob Van Nest over whether or not discussions involving letting Google engineers take Oracle’s version of Java and put it into Android was in fact a "joint project."

Ellison seemed fairly resistant to call this a "joint project," but after hearing himself call it that in a previous deposition video, Ellison threw his hands up and relented, "I called it a joint project. Okay."

Page, on the other hand, is a completely different story.

When questioned rather rigorously by Oracle attorney David Boies, most of Page's responses fell along the lines of "I don't recall" or "I don't know."

Page repeatedly evaded questions about whether or not he was aware of discussions, dating from as far back as 2005 up to 2010, about licensing Java for use in building Android.

Google CEO Larry Page leaving the courtroom. Credit: CNET

Also when responding, Page spent most of his time facing and addressing the jury, made up of seven women and five men, rather than Boies.

At one point when Boies reexamined Page on Wednesday, Boies became so exasperated that when Page asked Boies to repeat his question, Boies loudly said the word "Sun" (as in Sun Microsystems) three times -- even spelling it out "S-U-N."

That was in reference to an email sent by Andy Rubin, senior vice president of mobile at Google, to his team in 2005, which outlined the opinions and responsibilities of certain Google executives about an unspecified project.

Boies had highlighted this line:

sergey: application delivery part of APIs (Yes, but actual delivery is a negotiation.)

Boies asserted that it clearly had something to do with negotiations with Sun, but Page continued to state that he wasn't sure what that meant.

To be fair, both Ellison and Page made some missteps when speaking. Ellison said that he wasn't sure if Java was free, while Page said that "I’m not sure whether or not we got a license to anything." (One obviously -- or desperately -- has to assume that he was only referring to Java in this statement.)

Nevertheless, Wednesday's appearance is not likely going to be the last we see of Page at this trial.

While Ellison was sent home after testifying on Tuesday morning and was said not to be required to return unless subpoenaed, Page was placed on recall by Oracle’s lawyers.

That’s because Page was unable to identify a piece of evidence presented by Boies, which presented a debate between both legal teams.

After a short but heated discussion, Judge Alsup declared that Oracle lawyers could not press Page any further on this until another witness could correctly identify said document.

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Topics: Google, Oracle

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23 comments
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  • Oracle has been exposed

    for its evil reasons, while Google stands for the people and for the freedom!
    Java is free no matter how Oracle spins it!
    The Linux Geek
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  • Boies and Elli$on

    Are on the wrong side of this one. Oh, maybe, they will get an honorarium for 9 lines. Maybe. Yahoo and Oracle should team up as they circle the drain.
    droidfromsd
  • What happened to my post?

    This web sites forum software has got to be the worst PoS I've ever seen. Why can't a tech web site get some working, and useful, forum software?
    ye
    • You are so right

      This forum software blows chunks compared to what was used before CBS acquired ZDNet.

      They certainly are showing that they don't understand, or maybe not even care about, ZDNet's readers that have an opinion.

      Watch, ye's post will probably get the top rating for all responses to this blog article.
      djchandler
  • C'mon Google

    While I believe that Oracle made a major strategic error in it's handling of Java, I have to say that I'm not impressed by Larry Page's performance. While it's entirely reasonable to have forgotten the details of something that happened several years ago, there was nothing preventing him from re-familiarizing himself with the material in preparation for the court summons. Has it really been so long since he took a school exam that he can't remember such basics?
    iloving
    • Not really

      He was under no obligation to familarize himself with the material. Let them question the people that actually write the emails as to what they meant.
      fldbryan@...
      • Exactly!

        No one can presume that Page knew all about any collaboration if there's no documentation to show for it. And answering on behalf of someone else as to their intent is why hearsay testimony is not allowed. Not eliciting Oracle's desired responses from Page is the fault of Oracle's lawyers.
        djchandler
    • He is doing it right

      Page is doing the right thing by not giving specific answers about things not proven. If you read the last paragraph it says: "Judge Alsup declared that Oracle lawyers could not press Page any further on this until another witness could correctly identify said document." That means there is no evidence for what they were questioning him on so he doesn't and shouldn't answer anything about it until they come up with evidence. Thats what google's lawyers did by playing back tape of Larry saying it was a joint project.
      lifegiver36
    • Ever been questioned in court about 10 year old matters?

      I was deposed once for a similar (but between companies that don't generate this level of publicity) suit. It was about a web service I had been part of developing 8 years earlier. I had to, quite honestly, say "I don't remember" to just about every question. Then they'd show an email I had written and I'd say, "well, it looks like I did call it that".

      I suppose my former employer could have prepped me more, but they were better off having me not remember anything. The other firm's attorney's were clearly annoyed at how useless I was - but I wasn't trying to be unhelpful. You just don't remember little details, or even big ones, from one project out of hundreds, that you were part of years ago.

      It was all rather amusing.
      hoop1a
      • Agreed

        Although let us be clear: the human brain stores everything we experience in this life, in at least 4 different locations, holographically. So, it's not that we don't remember, we just aren't able to RECALL specifics on demand. Even then, a person with a very disciplined mind is able to recall all manner of details going back over many years. And even us plebs whose minds are NOT so disciplined are able to recall details we'd "forgotten" when the right synapses fire in response to either a specific or random stimuli. I realise that might all sound like semantics, but I believe it's important for us to use the right language. There is certainly plenty of evidence from all manner of sources to show that the words we use shape who we are as people, how we function, and how our bodies act / react to our words. For example, its common for very negative-speaking people to have a poor general life experience, have more "bad luck" (often because they expect it) and have poorer health. The reverse being true for very positive people. And of course there appear to be exceptions to these rules because their is another weird universal constant that comes into play called "Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people". However, the point is that if we continue to tell ourselves "I can't remember xyz", our brains begin to believe this, and then our ability to RECALL becomes progressively impeded.
        IslandBoy_77
  • Dump Java

    If Oracle is going to play this game with Java then I say it's time for the industry to move away from Java. I always had this fear that a language controlled by one company could suddenly turn the tables after the lanuage became saturated. Now we are seeing that happen. Oracle bought Sun to control Java and make money from it. Does anyone actually think it will stop with Google?
    fldbryan@...
    • If you actually need Java

      Do an end run on Oracle. Use OpenJDK.

      http://openjdk.java.net/
      djchandler
      • Duh!

        This is what Oracle are suing Google for doing
        Mythlandia
      • Sorry, I think you misunderstood, Mythlandia

        @Mythlandia

        Perhaps I should have been a little clearer about any intended irony or sarcasm. If Google simply joined the OpenJDK project, it would be the same as caving to Oracle demands for royalties on Android, which is what this is about.

        If you followed my link, you would have seen Oracle's trademark. My point being the duplicitous approach that Oracle is taking in trying to arm twist Google in pursuit of royalties beyond what's already been offered. Larry Ellison just wants more money and is trying to further leverage the confusion brought about by Oracle's acquisition of Sun. And this situation is precisely why the SEC should not have approved the deal in the first place. It was suspected that Oracle would assume the role of gorilla once they had the patents and copyrights owned by Sun Microsystems. Everybody but Google has already caved to Oracle.
        djchandler
  • Forgetting is a great legal strategy

    Page is taking the correct approach. He has been well-coached by his lawyers. Nothing he says on the stand can be used against him later in the trial. Look at Ellison. Already something he said in deposition has come back to haunt him. It's much safer to have a hazy memory.
    peg.m.mcmahon@...
  • Ellison is trying to close the barn door after the fact

    The point is that Oracle/Ellison very well knew they were acquiring a company that was hugely committed to free and open source projects. It has been a widely held opinion by the FOSS community that Oracle's real purpose in acquiring Sun was to slam the door shut on Sun's FOSS projects, i.e., MySQL, Virtualbox, OpenOffice, OpenSolaris, etc.

    Good luck to Google in fending off Oracle. Hopefully Ellison's telling responses to Google's lawyers' questions will be enough to end this.

    <rant>
    BTW, why can't I vote up or down on posts. It appears some people just come through and vote against posts they don't agree with, regardless of whether or not they make good and valid points, effectively censoring posts on bias alone. At the same time, spam is continually placed on these forums and are just left there.

    I agree with Ye, the forum software stinks by comparison to what was used before CBS acquired ZDNet.</rant>
    djchandler
  • Interesting dilemma.

    Free Open Source Software (FOSS) under most conditions means that you can use, change and/or add to the code as long you don't make a profit, money or go commercial off the code and if you do make profit, money or go commercial you need to pay or have consent of the writers of the original code.
    In this case James Gosling (and amongst other people also) created Java code which was employed by Sun and then was acquired by Oracle and Google used parts of the Java code in its Android mobile operating system which sold to smartphone makers which the consumer bought thus the issue of commercial use and gaining profit from the code.
    I'm surprised during the creation of Android OS that no one at Google did a due diligence of the code before I was released so this issue would no come up.
    phatkat
    • Completely incorrect

      There is nothing in any FOSS license that I have seen that prohibits you from charging for it. The GPL-like licences allow for taking the code, changing it and charging for it. However if you distribute it you have to release your changes under the GPL as well. BSD, Apache like licenses are even more free. You can take the code change it, close it and charge for it. If what you said were true Mac OS X wouldn't exist.
      30otnix
    • As I understand it...

      Google gives away Android for free. (They make money off of the ads.) That is why M$ goes after the handset manufacturers and not Google.
      mlashinsky@...