Alphabet CEO and Google co-founder Larry Page defended his company’s development of the Android platform today during an ongoing legal battle with Oracle. Oracle sued Google in 2010, claiming that Android developers copied sections of proprietary code from Java. Google has maintained that the code in question was open source and free for its engineers to use, and that the implementation of the Java code in Android was transformative enough to be considered fair use.
Page testified that he had little knowledge of the engineering details of Android that are at issue in this case, despite the fact that the lawsuit has now dragged on over the course of five years. However, he disputed Oracle’s assertion that Google stole its intellectual property when it used Java declaring code in Android. “When Sun established Java, they established it as an open source thing,” Page said. “We didn’t pay for the free and open things.”
He defended Google’s decision to use the APIs without obtaining a license from Sun Microsystems, which was later acquired by Oracle, saying that copying and reimplementing the APIs in question was a standard industry practice. Page claimed that Google’s implementation of the APIs was original and transformative, suggesting that his company’s coding would fall under fair use.
“I think we acted very responsibly and carefully around intellectual property issues,” Page explained.
Oracle attorneys presented Page with a Google slide deck that said the Android ecosystem was generating $43 billion in revenue each year. But Page argued that the massive revenue described in the slide wasn’t going into Google’s pockets, but rather to phone manufacturers and carriers. “I don’t know how much that has to do with Google,” Page testified, adding that carriers like Verizon “made a lot of money, but that doesn’t do Google any good.”
Page also discussed founding Google and acquiring Android. He said he took an interest in building a smartphone when he became frustrated with other phones on the market.
“I was super frustrated with the state of phones at the time, many of which were running Java. They didn’t really work very well. You couldn’t even take a picture and share it with someone. We had a closet full of a hundred phones so we could test them. They all worked differently and we couldn’t get our software to work on them. It was incredibly frustrating,” Page explained.
He added that he wanted Google to develop a phone so that he could expand access to his search engine to as many people as possible. “We make most of our money from Google Search and we want people to be able to access that, even if you don’t have very much money,” Page said.
Oracle and Google are presenting their final witnesses in the case today. Closing arguments are expected to begin on Monday and a jury will consider next week whether Google’s use of the Java APIs qualifies as fair use.