Oracle set to depose Larry Page

Fri, Jul 22, 2011

Legal, News

We haven’t commented too much on the ongoing litigation between Oracle and Google, but suffice it to say that Google seems to be in dire straights. While it may be slightly too early to say, it appears that Google willfully infringed Java patents owned by Oracle, a fact which may ultimately force Google to pay damages that number well into the billions.

Now FOSS Patents is reporting that Oracle has succeeded in its efforts to depose Google CEO Larry Page.

Late on Thursday by local time, magistrate judge issued an order according to which “Oracle may depose [Google co-founder and CEO] Mr. Page for a maximum of two hours, excluding breaks, solely on topics relevant to the willfulness of Defendant’s alleged patent infringement, and the value of Android to Defendant”. When I reported on Oracle’s related request, I already said that Oracle had a “pretty good chance” because the judge is very interested in the question of willful infringement and has strong suspicions in that regard.

Now it’s not typical for a CEO of a company to be deposed and it usually happens only when the CEO possesses specialized knowledge that other executives in the company would be unable to address. Now as to why Oracle’s request to depose Page was granted, Oracle writes that Page was involved in negotiations to license Java technologies from Sun (which was later acquired by Oracle).

Oracle claims that Mr. Page participated in Google’s negotiations with Sun for a Java license. Even though Google asserts that Mr. Page was not personally at the bargaining table, Google admits that Mr. Page received briefings on the negotiations. Given the importance of Android to Google’s business, it is highly likely that Mr. Page participated in decision-making regarding the licensing negotiations. Therefore, Plaintiff also has satisfied the court that Mr. Page likely ‘has unique first-hand, non-repetitive knowledge of facts at issue in the case’ and that Plaintiff ‘has exhausted other less intrusive discovery methods’ to obtain the information it seeks in its proposed deposition.

This is certainly getting interesting, and while Google chairman Eric Schmidt can scoff at Google’s legal troubles all he wants, this is serious business and Google may soon realize that it’s bitten off more than it can chew.

Particularly damning to Google was an email from Android head honcho Andy Rubin where he explained that Google needs to license Java. The email reads in part, “What we’ve actually been asked to do by Larry and Sergey is to investigate what technology alternatives exist to Java for Android and Chrome. We’ve been over a hundred of these and think they all suck. We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java.”

When negotiations fell apart, Google decided to use Java anyways, and well, here we are.


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