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Oracle to depose Google's CEO in patent lawsuit

Google CEO Larry Page has been ordered by the court to appear for questioning in the patent infringement lawsuit filed by Oracle over the search giant's use of Java.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Google Chief Executive Larry Page has been ordered to testify before the court as part of an ongoing lawsuit in which Oracle has accused the search giant of infringing on its patents for Java.

Google CEO Larry Page
Google CEO Larry Page Google

The order yesterday by Judge Donna Ryu of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California states that "Oracle may depose 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," according to a blog published today by FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller.

By putting Google's new chief executive in the middle of the case, the order turns up the heat on a lawsuit that's already got plenty. Android faces several patent challenges--in particular those Apple has filed against Android handset makers such as HTC and Samsung. Patent infringement findings could raise the costs of using Google's ostensibly free operating system. And the Oracle suit is a distraction for Page as he tries to improve Google's product focus.

Late last week, Oracle submitted its request to Ryu to depose Page, a request that Mueller said had a "pretty good chance" of being approved since the judge has a particular interest and suspicions over the "question of willful infringement."

Filed in August, Oracle's lawsuit alleges that Google knowingly infringed on patents related to Java, which the database company acquired when it took ownership of Sun Microsystems in early 2010. Specifically, Oracle contends that Google has used Java-based technologies in its Android operating system and even directly copied specific Java code into Android, thereby violating intellectual property rights.

With the case stretching on, the two companies have lately been arguing over how much money in damages Google would owe to Oracle should it lose the suit.

In a June 18 filing, Google asserted that it could potentially owe Oracle anywhere from $1.4 billion to $6.1 billion. Oracle denied that range, instead estimating the figure at $2.6 billion based on research from its damages expert, Iain Cockburn, a professor of finance and economics at Boston University. The damage estimates have been based in large part on the potential royalties that Oracle would have received as a result of Android's positive effect on Google's mobile business.

However, in its latest claim, reported yesterday by FOSS Patents, Oracle now is seeking more beyond the $2.6 billion. In a letter to the court, Oracle raised the idea that it may deserve additional money in damages based on the effects of Android on Google's non-mobile business.

The current discovery process in the suit is due to end on July 29, according to Mueller. Assuming this deadline doesn't get extended, then Page and other witnesses ordered to give deposition would have to be squeezed into the court's calendar within the next week.