Oracle has sued Google for a sum “in the billions of dollars” for patent infringement relating to it’s Java software platform. Oracle acquired the rights to Java when it acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010. The problem is somewhat complicated, however, because Eric Schmidt, who led the project to develop Java, later went on to become CEO of Google.
Google has requested that the courts keep certain information about the damages requested by Oracle private. Oracle countered that Google was trying to conceal the fact that the sum was in the billions of dollars. U.S. District Judge William Alsup has since ordered Google to release the precise amount of damages at some time today. Google says that it is not opposed to revealing the amount, but that it is misleading because the total “is based on fundamental legal errors and improperly inflates their estimates.” It later called the total “unreliable and results-oriented.” In fact, the sum calculated is based in part on total ad revenues from Android phones, which Google says are “not uniquely enabled by Android.”
Furthermore, Google argues, Java fragmented long before it was acquired by Sun, so that to refer to it as a single product is misleading.
While lawsuits with enormous stakes are becoming a norm in Silicon Valley (we’re looking at you, Winklevii), what sets this case apart is that both parties are major players in Silicon Valley and will not be intimidated by the size and power of their adversary. If anything, ZDNet points out, Oracle is at some advantage. Not only does it own thousands of patents, both of its own and from its acquisition of Nortel. It has also won a large patent related law suit already, that one in November against the enormous German software manufacturer SAP, for $1.3 billion. It should be no surprise that attorney David Boies, who helped secure that victory, is a major figure on the legal team suing Google as well.
ZDNet also indicates that the lawsuit may have more behind it than simple patent protection. Though it acquired Sun almost a year ago, Oracle has yet to monetize its investment in Java. Should it win, say $2 billion, it would recoup almost half the cost of its original acquisition.