Google disputes possible $6 billion Java lawsuit price tag

Oracle court filing estimates Google owes up to $6.1 billion for its use of Java in Android -- nearly as much money in damages as Oracle paid to buy all of Sun

Google may owe Oracle nearly as much money in damages as Oracle paid to buy all of Sun Microsystems, according to Oracle's paid expert in the companies' Java intellectual property dispute.

According to a court filing from Google late Friday, Oracle's damages expert, Boston University professor Iain Cockburn, has estimated that Google would owe Oracle between $1.4 billion and $6.1 billion if it is found to have infringed on Oracle's Java patents, which Oracle acquired when it bought Sun last year for $7.4 billion.

[ Oracle claims Google "directly copied" its Java code, but InfoWorld's Savio Rodriguez discusses Oracle's real reason for suing Google. | Stay ahead of the key tech business news with InfoWorld's Today's Headlines: First Look newsletter. | Read Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog for what the key business trends mean to you. ]

"Oracle's 'methodology' for calculating damages is based on fundamental legal errors and improperly inflates their estimates," Google said in a statement Monday.

Oracle sued Google last August, claiming it is owed money for Google's use of Java in its Android operating system for smartphones and tablets. Google disputes the claim.

Google doesn't charge for Android, but to figure out how much Oracle should be paid in damages, Cockburn "adds all of Google's revenue from advertising on all Android devices worldwide ... and then proposes awarding Oracle half of that amount," according to Scott Weingaertner, a lawyer representing Google, in a letter to the judge overseeing the case, William Alsup of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Weingaertner's letter was sent June 6, but the damages estimates were blacked out in the version made public at the time. An unredacted version was filed late last week.

Cockburn's report is filed under seal. Oracle declined to comment on the matter, and Cockburn didn't return messages seeking comment. In his letter, Weingaertner had plenty to say about the sum, which he called "a breathtaking figure that is out of proportion to any meaningful measure of the intellectual property at issue."

"Cockburn's theory is neatly tailored to enable Oracle to finance nearly all of its multi-billion dollar acquisition of Sun," Weingaertner wrote.

Sun released much of its Java platform under an open-source license, but since Oracle filed its lawsuit, at least one intellectual property expert claims to have uncovered code that Google used without authorization.

According to research firm IDC, Android is the world's leading smartphone operating system and is expected to reach 40 percent market share in the second half of this year. But with that success, there have been lawsuits. Apple has sued HTC, Microsoft has sued Motorola, and security vendor Gemalto has sued Google, Motorola, HTC and Samsung.

Robert McMillan covers computer security and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Robert on Twitter at @bobmcmillan. Robert's email address is robert_mcmillan@idg.com.

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