Google has had a major setback in its ongoing Java patent dispute with Oracle, after the US Court of Appeal in Washington ruled that one of Google's internal emails could be used as evidence against the firm.
The email was written in August 2010 by Tim Lindholm, a software engineer at Google, to his superiors. He suggested that Google would have no choice but to start licensing Java as no other technologies would be suitable for use within Android and Chrome.
"What we've actually been asked to do (by Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin]) is to investigate what technical alternatives exist to Java for Android and Chrome. We've been over a bunch of these, and think they all suck" Lindholm wrote.
"We conclude that we need to negotiate a licence for Java under the terms we need."
Despite numerous attempts by Google to stop this email being used in the forthcoming trial, Oracle had argued that it had a right to present this to a jury.
In his latest ruling, judge Alan Lourie noted that "the email's discussion is directed at a negotiation strategy as opposed [to a legal strategy]. The email does not evidence any sort of infringement or invalidity analysis," according to a report by Bloomberg.
Florian Mueller, patent specialist, noted that Lindholm's email could be a potentially damning piece of evidence against Google.
"Oracle's challenge is to prove an actual infringement of valid intellectual property rights. If Oracle manages to inject the Lindholm email into the early stage of the trial, the jury will basically know that Google itself knows there's some infringement somewhere. Oracle might get a whole lot of mileage out of this piece of evidence," he noted on the Foss Patents blog.
The trial between the firms scheduled to start around mid-April.
Previously, Google was forced to disclose it rejected the chance to enter a $100m three-year licensing deal with Sun Microsystems for Java back in 2006.
If Google loses the trial it could be forced to pay up to 10 times that amount to Oracle, which has since acquired Sun and Java, and is looking for damages of roughly $1bn.
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