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Oracle tells jury Google stole idea

Android technology at center of software suit

SAN FRANCISCO – Oracle began Monday trying to convince a jury that Google’s top executives have long known that they stole a key piece of technology to build the Android software that now powers more than 300 million smartphones and tablet computers.

The unflattering portrait of Google Inc. was drawn by Oracle lawyer Michael Jacobs in the opening phase of a complex trial pitting two Silicon Valley powerhouses in a battle delving into the often mind-numbing minutiae of intellectual property and computer coding.

“We will prove to you from beginning to end … that Google knew it was using someone else’s property,” Jacobs said near the end of his hourlong opening statement.

Google’s lawyers will counter with their opening statements Tuesday.

The showdown in a San Francisco federal court centers on Oracle’s allegations that Google’s Android software infringes on the patents and copyrights of Java, a programming technology that Sun Microsystems began developing 20 years ago.

Oracle Corp., a business software maker based in Redwood Shores, acquired the rights to Java when it bought Sun Microsystems for $7.3 billion in January 2010.

Mountain View-based Google Inc. has steadfastly denied Oracle’s allegations since the lawsuit was filed seven months after the Sun deal closed.

The impasse has left it to a 12-member jury to resolve the dispute in a trial scheduled to last as long as 10 weeks.

Oracle is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and an injunction that would force Google to pay future licensing fees or find an alternative to Java to keep its Android system running smoothly.

At one point in the lawsuit, Oracle estimated it might be owed as much as $6.1 billion. But U.S. District Judge William Alsup has whittled the case down in a way that has substantially lowered the size of the potential payout if Google loses.

The trial will include testimony from the two companies’ multibillionaire CEOs, Oracle’s Larry Ellison and Google’s Larry Page. Oracle indicated on Monday that it could call Ellison to the stand as early as today.

Jacobs focused much of his opening statement on excerpts in internal emails that suggest Google knew it needed to pay licensing fees to use some of the Java technology that went into Android, a project that began in 2005. The first phone running on Android software didn’t go on sale until October 2008, about 15 months before Oracle bought Sun Microsystems and stepped up the attempts to make Google pay up for the Java technology.

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