This week the software version of the Trial of the Century took off in a San Francisco courtroom as Oracle and Google went to duke out their intellectual property lawsuit. If you’ve been too busy with other things to follow the case, here’s a cheat sheet.
Many philosophical questions are being asked in this trial; Can you copyright a programing language? Does copyright law protect original works of creative expression, or does its reach also cover the tools used to create those works? The outcome of this trial (and the extrapolated answers to these questions) may go on to shape intellectual property law, as well as the tech industry, for decades to come.
Many revelations have already come out of the trial — first, that Steve Jobs’ dying wish was apparently to avenge his beloved iPhone by punishing the people who created what he saw as a cheap knock-off. Perhaps it’s ironic that Jobs’ good friend Larry Ellison gets to be the one to bring Google to trial, even if not overtly to posthumously avenge his friend, but rather his righteous moral indignation at this flagrant flouting of intellectual property. Another scintillating revelation is that Oracle once considered buying Canadian company RIM in order to break into the mobile phone industry; this disclosure has promoted some to imagine what Oracle and RIM would look like had this deal actually been brokered.
Wednesday was dubbed “CEO Day,” with both Larrys — Page, CEO of Google, and Ellison, CEO of Oracle — taking the stand. Both had flaws in their testimony — Larry Page was evasive with Oracle’s lawyer to the point where Judge Alsup eventually told him, “You’ve got to say ‘yes,’ ‘no’ or ‘I don’t know…You must do that.” Larry Ellison announced that he didn’t know if Java was free and contradicted his statements.
Additionally, Oracle has been pointing to a “smoking gun” memo sent by Google exec Andy Rubin to Larry Page stating that they ought to “pay Sun for their technology.”
This trial has been every bit the roller coaster ride we all assumed it would be, complete with vengeance from beyond the grave, secret incriminating memos and philosophical reflection. But, with both Oracle and Google involved, did we really expect anything less?