Google's Lindholm dances around questions about Java licenses

After Google CEO Larry Page claimed that he isn't too familiar with him, Google software engineer Tim Lindholm took the stand in the IP trial against Oracle on Thursday.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Tim LIndholm leaving the courthouse on Thursday. Credit: James Martin, CNET

Tim Lindholm leaving the courthouse on Thursday. Credit: James Martin, CNET

SAN FRANCISCO -- Taking a page from Larry Page, Google engineer Tim Lindholm took an evasive approach while on the stand in the continuing trial between Google and Oracle.

Lindholm's appearance and testimony at the U.S. District Court has been highly anticipated this week after CEO Larry Page was vigorously questioned by Oracle's lawyers over whether or not the two have a working relationship.

Page has repeatedly asserted that he is not familiar with Lindholm, but rather that he only knows of him. Nevertheless, Oracle has pushed that this isn't the case.

See also: APIs take center stage at Oracle-Google trial Oracle lawyers attempt to stress creative value of Java

Prior to his tenure at Google, Lindholm worked at Sun Microsystems from 1994 to 2005, ending his time at Sun as a distinguished engineer. Lindholm was a involved on the original team that developed Java.

When Lindholm was at Sun, Oracle's counsel, David Boies, pointed out that he met with Andy Rubin, now senior vice president of mobile at Google. But at the time he was the founder of Android, the startup later acquired by Google.

Lindholm asserted that he had no knowledge that Google was going to acquire Android in advance.

When pressed by Boies over when this meeting took place, Lindholm couldn't place an exact time frame.

Boies brought up an email from Lindholm to Rubin, dated October 13, 2005, at which point both of them were at Google and Android had already been acquired.

Alan presumably wants this both for tactical reasons (preserve TCK and implementation revenue, defend franchise against fragmentation which is his main threat for long-term erosion)

Boies asked in a knowing manner if "Alan" worked at Sun, but Lindholm replied he wasn't sure.

"I knew generally speaking that Sun was concerned about that," Lindholm said.

After more evasion from Lindholm, Boies drew up another email from July 2005, from Rubin to several leaders at Google -- the same email that Boies cited with Page on Wednesday that detailed the responsibilities and other notes about Android.

Boies cited three bullet points that begin with "tim," which Boies asked if this referred to the witness. Lindholm said he wasn't sure if they referred to him, saying that he didn't recall these meetings "in any detail."

Moving right along, pointing above the references to "tim," Boies asked who "brian" referred to, followed by the note:

concerned about sun preventing distributing java as open source

Again, essentially following in the same pattern of Page's testimony on Wednesday, Lindholm said he didn't know.

After admitting that he did have "a few meetings with Sun," Boies grilled Lindholm over an agenda involving discussions with Sun over a CLDC license. It also read:

Google needs a TCK license.

Lindholm said he couldn't recall having seen this or any discussion about it, explaining "Looking at this, this seems to be a discussion with CLDC licensing with Sun."

Boies brought up yet another email exchange between Lindholm and Rubin from December 2005, highlighting that Rubin wrote:

my reasoning is that either a) we'll partner with Sun as contemplated in our recent discussions or b) we'll take a license

Lindholm couldn't offer much of a clarification here either.

Thus, Boies brought up a confidential email addressed to Tim Lindholm, among a few others, about a possible deal with Sun. After an objection from Google's attorneys, Boies was able to have the email admitted as evidence.

Lindholm was hesitant about saying he was familiar with it or not, saying he couldn't do so by looking at the paper alone.

Nevertheless, the email, from Google software engineer Bob Lee in February 2009, included a possibly telling note, "Good for Google: Our Java lawsuits go away."

"I didn't write this, so I did not have that concern," Lindholm asserted, adding that he doesn't recall what became of this.

During cross-examination, Lindholm later told Google's counsel, Christa Anderson, that he was not aware of any lawsuits involving Android at the time of this email.

In another email admitted as evidence, Lindholm wrote to Rubin and a few others in August 2010:

What we’ve been asked to do (by Larry and Sergei [sic]) is to investigate what technical alternatives exist to Java for Android and Chrome. We’ve been over a bunch of these, and think they all suck. We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need.

Boies asked pointedly if that passage referred to a getting a license from Sun for Java, and Lindholm said that is not what he meant in that email. Boies asked from who he meant then, and Lindholm danced around answering the question.

Lindholm eventually said that it was "not specifically a license from anybody."

Switching gears when cross-examined by Anderson, Lindholm explained that he had some involvement with Android, but that he had not written a single line nor did he make decisions about the architecture.

Nevertheless, Lindholm said, "As a software engineer, not a lawyer, it's been my understanding that software APIs are free for use by other people."

Lindholm was slightly more talkative when presented his past emails by Google's counsel.

"At the time I wrote this email, Google and Sun had been discussing a co-development agreement to use Sun source code as a base for some Android work," Lindholm said about one piece of evidence.

In one exchange in August 2005, approximately a month after Lindholm joined Google, Lindholm wrote to Rubin:

my name value would be as J2ME runtime generalist and interpreter of the engineering/business/legal/ecosystem.

Yet, Lindholm affirmed that he never ended up doing either of these things for Android.

After Lindholm was allowed to step down, both sides agreed that he didn't have to come back to testify. For the first time in approximately an hour while on the stand, Lindholm looked relaxed and smiled -- even raising his hands and making two peace signs to much laughter throughout the courtroom.

Strangely, one mystery seems to remain: We still don't know how well Lindholm and Page know each other.


Editorial standards