NEWS

Google clarifies financial ties to commenters on Oracle lawsuit

08/27/2012 10:33 EDT | Updated 10/27/2012 05:12 EDT
Google has released the names of people and organizations who commented publicly on its patent battle with the computer technology company Oracle and at one time or another had financial ties to the internet search giant.

In response to a judge's order, Google, which was sued by Oracle for allegedly violating Oracle-owned patents and copyright related to the Java programming language, submitted a court filing last Friday that lists, among others:

- Stanford University law professor Mark Lemley, a critic of U.S. patent law who worked as outside counsel for Google and commented about Oracle's lawsuit against Google in the mainstream press — without mention of his connection to Google.

- Timothy B. Lee, a former Google intern who later wrote about the case for the technology news site Ars Technica.

- A current Google employee who tweeted about the case on his personal Twitter feed.

- The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has received financial contributions from Google, whose employees and volunteers have written about the software copyright and intellectual property issues in the Oracle-Google case.

- Ed Black, of the industry lobby group Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), who Google says Oracle unjustly accuses of "acting under the influence of Google money" when he wrote a column defending the position that copyright doesn't apply to the kind of programming applications at the heart of the Oracle case. Google, which as a member of the CCIA contributes financially to the organization, says Black's positions long predate the lawsuit.

Google said it did not pay any of the 12 individuals and six organizations named in its supplemental disclosure document to comment on any aspect of the Oracle case but that the list contained the names of people who had spoken or written publicly about the case and who were known by Google to have at one time "received payments as consultants, contractors, vendors, or employees and employee commenters at organizations who receive money from Google."

Judge ordered disclosure

The disclosure came in response to an order by Judge William Alsup of the District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division, who earlier this month asked both Google and Oracle to reveal the names of any writers, journalists, commentators or bloggers retained or paid by either of the two companies who "have and/or may publish comments" on the issues in the case.

Oracle launched a lawsuit against Google in 2010 alleging its use of certain aspects of Java programming code in its Android operating system violated Oracle's intellectual property rights. Oracle acquired the Java patents when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2010.

In June, Alsup ruled that even though a jury had found that in some cases Google had violated Oracle's copyright, the infractions were minor and Google would not have to pay the damages Oracle demanded.

He later asked both sides to clarify their financial links with those who had commented on the case publicly and said that although the court proceedings were over, such a disclosure would be "of use on appeal or on any remand to make clear whether any treatise, article, commentary or analysis on the issues posed by this case are possibly influenced by financial relationships to the parties or counsel."

Oracle names blogger, law prof

In its response to the judge's order, Oracle, which said it would appeal the ruling, said a consultant it hired, Florian Mueller, blogged about the case — a fact disclosed by Mueller himself in April — and that some Oracle employees may have blogged about issues related to the case.

It also named Paul Goldstein, a Stanford University law professor who although he didn't comment on the case itself writes about copyright issues and has worked for Oracle's law firm, Morrison Foerster.

In its disclosure, Oracle accused Google of using its financial influence to steer the debate on intellectual property to its side of the argument — namely, that its incorporation of Java application programming interfaces should be considered fair use.

Google initially said it didn't pay anyone directly to provide comment on the case but that given the large number of institutions and individuals that have direct or indirect financial links to Google — through use of its AdSense online advertising scheme, for example — it would be "extraordinarily difficult and perhaps impossible" for Google to identify all those who may have commented on the trial.

Alsup pressed Google to come up with some names, allowing it to exclude parties such as universities and AdSense clients and giving it until last Friday to submit the list.

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