Google did not pay to use Oracle’s software in millions of smartphones, but the company believed that the intellectual property was free for anyone to use, Larry Page, chief executive of Google’s parent company, told jurors in court on Thursday.
In a retrial at San Francisco federal court, Oracle Corp. has claimed Google’s Android smartphone operating system violated its copyright on parts of Java, a development platform. Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit said it should be able to use Java without paying a fee under the fair-use provision of copyright law.
A trial in 2012 ended in a deadlocked jury, and if the current jury rules against Google on fair use, then it would consider Oracle’s request for $9 billion in damages.
The case has been closely watched by software developers, who fear an Oracle victory could spur more software copyright lawsuits. However, investors see little risk for Google because the company could afford to pay a one-time fine, and the possibility of an injunction that would force Google to pay ongoing royalties to Oracle appears remote.
Page, whose vocal cords have been affected by a previous medical condition, spoke quietly into the microphone. “Sorry I’m a little bit soft,” he said to jurors.
Oracle attorney Peter Bicks sharply questioned Page about the importance of Android to Google’s business, pointing to documents noting billions of dollars in revenue, as well as earnings transcripts in which Page said 700,000 Android phones were “lit up” every day.
“Yes, I already testified I think Android is significant to Google,” said Page, who testified for about a half hour.
Bicks asked Page if Google paid Oracle for the use of Java, which was developed by Sun Micro systems in the early 1990s and acquired by Oracle in 2010.
“I think when Sun established Java it was established as an open source thing,” Page said.
Bicks repeated the question.
“No we didn’t pay for the free and open things,” Page said.
Under questioning from Google attorney Robert Van Nest, Page said Google’s use of Java was consistent with widespread industry practice.
“I think we acted very responsibly and carefully around the intellectual property issues,” Page said.