Oracle has been granted the right to interview Google chief executive Larry Page in relation to its ongoing patent infringement dispute, as it emerged that Google spurned the chance to pay Sun Microsystems to use the Java platform when it was developing Android.
US judge Donna Ryu will allow Oracle to question Page for two hours, excluding breaks, on topics relevant to alleged wilful patent infringement and the value of Android.
Oracle will also be allowed to question Bob Lee, Google's former senior software engineer, and Tim Lindholm, an Android engineer who used to work at Sun.
However, Judge Ryu denied Oracle's request for an interview with Dipchand Nishar, a former Google employee, because "the role he played at Google is unclear".
"Oracle has not established that Nishar has relevant, non-duplicative, non-cumulative knowledge that justifies an additional disposition," Judge Ryu said in the court ruling.
Patents expert Florian Mueller argued that if Oracle can prove wilful patent infringement, it could triple the amount of damages under US law.
"Even prior to a potential tripling, Oracle's damages claims are staggering and still increasing. It previously claimed $2.6bn," he said on the Foss Patents blog.
"[With] so much money at stake, Judge Ryu apparently felt that it wasn't unduly burdensome to ask Page to take the witness stand."
Meanwhile, Google lawyer Robert Van Nest suggested that there was a potential deal on the cards between Sun and Google back in 2006.
The $100m three-year 'all-in' deal between Sun and Google was to jointly build Android, rather than for just a patent licence, Bloomberg reported Van Nest as saying during a hearing at the federal court in San Francisco.
Mueller told V3 that Google should have taken a licence from Sun at the very least, and that the decision not to could have huge financial implications.
"Google's rejection of Sun's offer appears reckless, arrogant and misguided. It could also have Android device makers concerned about various other intellectual property issues caused by Google's attitude," he said.
"It appears that the judge isn't buying Google's defences and doesn't believe a jury is likely to buy them. Oracle clearly has the upper hand and Google probably hopes for a stay pending re-examination of the patents-in-suit by the US Patent Office, but even in that case I believe Oracle will simply adjust its strategy and timelines."
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