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The executive in charge of Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Android mobile-phone software at the heart of a legal dispute with Oracle Corp. (ORCL) testified Wednesday that he had no reason to believe Google would actually be sued for patent infringement.
The testimony of Senior Vice President Of Mobile Andy Rubin--delivered in person and via video played in the courtroom--shed some light on the delicate balance required of large technology companies as they jostle over partnerships and the sensitive topic of intellectual-property rights.
Oracle sued Google in August 2010 for allegedly infringing patents and copyrights that protect Oracle's Java technology. Java was originally developed by Sun Microsystems, which Oracle acquired in early 2010.
The two sides are currently facing off at a trial in San Francisco. Oracle won a partial victory during the first portion of the proceedings, on copyright, and is now pursuing Google in a second segment devoted to patent allegations.
A third phase dedicated to assessing any damages will follow.
During his testimony Wednesday, Rubin was quizzed about his earlier statements that "the topic of patents didn't come up" between Google and Sun related to Google's use of Java, until after Sun had been acquired in 2010.
When an Oracle attorney showed Rubin a copy of a 2007 email in which the executive wrote to colleagues that Google broke off talks with Sun about Java after it had been threatened over patents, Rubin countered that he probably exaggerated.
In his video testimony, Rubin added there are rarely explicit threats of litigation when companies discuss intellectual-property rights. "You don't say, 'do this or we're going to sue you'," Rubin said, adding that with Sun there were only "vague assertions of the consequences" if Google didn't agree to a partnership.
Overall, Rubin said Sun was attempting to wrangle licensing fees or partnership terms from Google with a mix of threats and encouragement, adding it was a tactic to which Google didn't warm. "You can't let them play good cop and bad cop with you," he explained.
Rubin stated that the earlier implied threats from Sun over intellectual property, before Sun was purchased by Oracle, didn't even relate to Android. Instead, he testified, those threats were related to technology that Google was using in its data centers.
After Sun was acquired, Rubin recalled a meeting in 2010 to discuss Java with Oracle at which he was surprised to see Oracle's general counsel in attendance. Informed at that meeting that Oracle had prepared a lawsuit, Rubin recalled responding, "If you want to sue Google, there's nothing I can do to stop you from that."
The Google executive noted during his testimony that he generally didn't spend time worrying about intellectual-property rights or litigation as his team developed Android.
"I felt pretty confident" that Google wasn't infringing others' intellectual property, Rubin said.
-By John Letzing, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-765-8230; firstname.lastname@example.org