Oracle's Larry Ellison takes the stand in Android IP trial

Oracle's Larry Ellison takes the stand in Android IP trial

Summary: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison described on the stand the different licenses available for Java, citing that Google is the only company that hasn't signed up for any of them.


SAN FRANCISCO -- Oracle CEO Larry Ellison defended his company's patent and copyright infringement suit against Google on the second day of the trial on Tuesday morning.

Ellison leaves the courtroom. Credit: James Martin, CNET

Ellison leaves the courtroom. Credit: James Martin, CNET

Although Google CEO Larry Page was technically called as the first witness by Oracle's legal team, Ellison was the first to take the stand at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco as Page's testimony was presented via video from his deposition last August.

See also: Oracle reveals Java copyright case against Google (gallery)

Farber: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison: I don't know if Java is free

When writing a program in Java, Ellison explained that developers do two different things: they use the Java programming language, and then they reuse the library of pre-written Java programs.

When asked whether or not it is expensive to develop APIs, Ellison sighed and responded, "Arguably, it's one of the most difficult things we do at Oracle."

Ellison said that there are three kinds of licenses: GPL open-source, specification, and commercial.

Some examples of companies using commercial licenses include RIM for BlackBerry and Amazon for the Kindle.

Describing Java specification licenses, in particular, Ellison explained that this license lets developers look at the Java documentation -- not the source code. Then using those design specifications, developers can build their own version of Java, using the design and specs.

Examples of these companies that fall within the Java community (but are also competitors of Oracle) include IBM, SAP and Hewlett-Packard.

Once a company has built their own version of Java, they must run a compatibility test (or TCK) to make sure that it is compatible with the standard Java framework. If the company passes, the license is free, but the company has to pay for the compatibility test.

When asked by Oracle attorney David Boies if there are any companies that are using Java but without any of these licenses, Ellison replied, "The only company I know of that hasn't taken any of these licenses is Google."

When asked by Google's defense attorney Bob Van Nest if the Java language is free, Ellison hesitated. Judge William Alsup pushed Ellison to give a yes or no answer, and Ellison resisted and huffed, "I don't know."

"I don't know if you can copyright a language," Ellison explained later during his testimony, "I just don't know the answer to that question."

Van Nest reiterated that Google is not promoting its smartphone platform under the name Java, but rather a different name: Android.

Van Nest then followed a line of argument that basically tried to assert that Oracle has backtracked on its support for Android, and it's now filing a suit after Oracle couldn't get into the smartphone market itself.

Recalling a speech that Ellison made in June 2009 at JavaOne with then Sun Microsystems chairman Scott McNealy (as seen in the video below), Van Nest questioned Ellison if he remembered his remarks, to which Ellison replied he did.

During the event, Ellison had said that he expected to see more Java devices coming from "our friends at Google." Van Nest highlighted the part where Ellison praised Sun, saying that it had done "a fantastic job" in opening up Java and giving it to the world.

Van Nest then asked Ellison if a "primary factor" behind buying Sun was to get into the smartphone business. On the stand, Ellison replied no.

When Van Nest brought up a video clip from Ellison's deposition in August 2011, Ellison was asked if Oracle wanted to use Java to expand into the smartphone business as well as to compete with Apple.

At the deposition, Ellison replied yes on both accounts.

On the stand, Ellison defended his remarks by pointing out that Van Nest said a "primary factor." Ellison asserted that it was only a simple "factor," as it was "an idea worth exploring," but not one of the "primary" motivations for buying Sun.

Ellison had trouble remember his past statements again later during his testimony. After being asked about internal plans regarding expanding into the smartphone market through potential acquisitions (Palm wasn't considered competitive enough and RIM was rebuffed for being "too expensive"), Ellison was questioned about a meeting with Google's Eric Schmidt about Java and Android.

On the stand, Ellison first said that this was "not a joint project," but rather Google could take Oracle's version of Java and put it into Android.

When Van Nest brought up Ellison's deposition from August 2011 again, Ellison affirmed that it was a joint project. Google's lawyers described the meeting to discuss Google engineers working with Oracle engineers to improve and put out a better product. Ellison replied at the time, "Correct."

When on the stand, Ellison relented and said, "I called it a joint project. Okay."

Obviously, those talks fell through. The next interaction after that was the lawsuit being fought at trial now.


Topics: Mobility, Android, Security, Oracle, Networking, Mobile OS, Legal, Hardware, Google, Enterprise Software, Smartphones

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  • Reasons for buying Sun have nothing to do with the fact that Google ...

    ... consciously and intentionally stole IP and even direct code parts, and now wants to backdate this "free" theory, while court records show all of Google's major people knew they had to license it.
    • Java is free according to Elli$on

      Google might have wanted to sponsor some FOSS project, not pay up for a 'Java license'.
      The Linux Geek
    • Oh, please.

      Ya can't steal something that is FREE. Show me the copyright.
      • Ridiculous

        To create, manage, test and develop and API like Java cost a lot in time, money and risk.

        What is the point of investing all this if its to gives it for free to your competitors
  • Elli$on has been caught redhanded

    trying to make up fictitious licenses and breaking promises it made earlier.
    It's time for Oracle to call it quits to save face with the industry!
    The Linux Geek
    • Fictitious Licenses?

      The Licenses are real and no one disputes that. Sun sure went after Microsoft for trying to co-opt java in the late 90s, so let's assume that Sun cares when someone duplicates portions of the api and calls it java.

      The affirmative defense being made by Google is that they used parts of java that are not copyrightable. Oracle, as Sun's successor, disagrees and wishes to have compensation for the license to the rights they acquired from Sun, who always had a more restrictive license on java for mobile.

      I'm thinking that Google is probably right. Oracle paid what it paid and I don't care if they paid it for the litigation upside or the good hardware and software technology Sun owned. But, I think there is a point, probably moot, about the money Sun spent to adapt the java desktop/server api and implementation to something that would run - and fit - on a mobile device of the late 90s. Microsoft Windows had already won on the desktop, and so, as part of its server strategy, Sun gave away the Windows/JRE. But mobile was an open field and offered a chance for java-related revenue.

      If it had been Sun pursuing this a few years back, I'd probably be rooting for them. By Google giving developers an opportunity to write against understood apis, it essentially leveraged Sun's work and taking a reasonably priced license was the way for Sun to earn back on its investment. The license also puts Google on the same footing as others who did license J2ME. Google wrote its own virtual machine, so the licensing costs should be accordingly less.

      I think the jury or judge will find that the API is not copyrightable and I'll agree with them. But this will be a shot across the bow of others thinking about writing cross-platform tools, in that the owners of the platform will take the apis without compensation and change the specifications to lock in customers. Or maybe not, perhaps something was learned from the days of Unix balkanization. But the folks who paid the coders to specify, test, and develop those apis will be left without a revenue stream beyond the platform they own.

      Any who has flailed about trying to have truly reusable interfaces, as I have and flail is the word, will understand what I'm saying about how making api is hard, expensive work.
      • if you can't copyright the APIs ,what's left?

        Oracle has no case since the patents are not infringed.
        The Linux Geek
      • One big difference...

        When MS were duplicating Sun's effort it wasn't publicly known to be OPEN SOURCE. I'm not saying that some good faith money would be out of the question, but there should be no legal basis for this retrospective Oracle imposed fraud. Whether Google were toying with the idea of licensing or not, that was then and this is now. You can't claim retrospective royalties on something you (Sun) have released into the wild years ago. In addition, any revenue to Google from Android comes from advertising and not from the product or Java itself.

        No case - dismissed.
      • It is stupid to base your future on unlicensed code

        I am amazed at how Google were thinking: "we need a license for this, but let's pretend we don't, until we become successful".

        Any company, that wants to base their business on someone else's IP has to make sure they have got a license for what they intend to do. Because, when they become successful, the other company WILL be after them for damages. This is so obvious and has happened so many, many times already..

        If Google didn't succeed with Android, then no doubt, Oracle would not go out of their way to "punish" them.

        Java variants are indeed in GPL. But what this means is that in order to obey the license, Google must publish any and all modifications made to the code. Also, vendors who use Android must also publish any and all modifications to the code. The same applies for carriers etc.
        The GPL license is viral. This is why most of the vendors who make things that for one reason or another need to include proprietary code, or code licensed from third parties, prefer to stay away from it.
        In fact, Android is not using GPL. This is why Google has no recourse in claiming they used the "open source" GPL version of Java.
  • This should be tirst rule of trial law...

    ...don't put a megalomaniac on the stand.
    • why

      That's what makes an otherwise boring trial exciting and newsworthy.
  • Elli$on is desperate

    I'm afraid the guy has lost his mind. The co is gone due to lack of products. Nothing left but whining.
  • Do no evil ?

    Never mind the case here The emails produced certainly show that Google's mantra of " Do No Evil" is a cover. The lanquage and intent of these Google participates whether or not legal is certainly not in line with their promoted ethics!!
    • You don't read it right :)

      Google's mantra is: do not evil (to us)
  • I keep laughing at what a bozo Ellison is

    Larry Ellison is a laugh riot. He can't keep his lies straight. And he sure as hell can't B.S. the judge in this case.

    I eagerly await the next episode of "Larry the Liar".
  • Wow!

    Google's lawyer really took Ellison to task. Great showing by Google.
  • Page fault

    Is it Page fault, if google looses? ;) Sorry...
    • Good Pun!

  • Good for who?

    At 3:30 in the video, McNealy has a bit of Freudian slip when he says how things will be good for Oracle, then quickly corrects it with good for Java.
  • Wow, why would he not know those things?

    Sun were trying hard to open-source Java when they were taken over, but they hadn't completed the process. And as for languages, of course an invented programming language has a copyright. How could it not? Copyrights can be relinquished, but to begin with it rests with the author and inventor.