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Thursday, April 19, 2012, 08:08 pm PT (11:08 pm ET)

Google engineers defend source code, email in Oracle lawsuit over Java

Two Google engineers, both of whom formerly worked for Sun, testified on Thursday about their role in developing the Android mobile operating system, defending their current employer from Oracle's accusations that it copied code and admitted internally that it needed to negotiate a license for Java.

The Lindholm draft

Oracle has put forth drafts of an email by Google engineer Tim Lindholm as a vital piece of evidence that the company knew it needed to license Java from Oracle when it was developing Android.

"What we've actually been asked to do (by [Google founders] Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin]) is to investigate what technical alternatives exist to Java for Android and Chrome," Lindholm wrote. "We've been over a bunch of these, and think they all suck. We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need."

Google had previously sought to have the email suppressed due to attorney-client privilege, but the judge on the case denied the request.

The email is apparently so damning that the judge claimed "a good trial lawyer would just need that document 'and the Magna Carta' (arguably the origin of common law) to win this case on Oracle's behalf and have Google found to infringe Oracle's rights willfully," as reported by Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents

When questioned in court by an Oracle attorney on Thursday, Lindholm said he did not mean that Google should get a license from Sun, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"It was not specifically a license from anybody," he said.

The engineer's defense, however, is not helped by the fact that he served as one of the original developers of Java at Sun before joining Google in 2005. Oracle acquired Sun, and the rights to Java, in 2010. Lindholm did admit that he worked on Google's negotiations with Sun at one point because of his background with Java, but he added that most of his work has actually been focused on Google's data centers, rather than Android.

I don't recall

Joshua Bloch, informally known as Google's Chief Java Architect, also served as a witness at the trial on Thursday. Oracle questioned Bloch on whether he had copied nine lines of "rangeCheck" code that he had contributed to Android from his previous work at Sun, as noted by The Verge.

"I don't recall," Bloch testified. However, he suggested in a deposition from 2011 that the fact that the code is in the same order and has the same name is "a strong indicator that it is likely" that he did copy the code. Bloch went on to say that he doesn't remember accessing copyrighted code, but that it might have happened.

"Under the circumstances I wrote the code, yes, I'm perfectly willing to believe it," he said. "If I did, it was a mistake, and I'm sorry I did it."

Google claims to have created a "clean room" for its engineers as they were developing Android. It's not clear, though, how Google would have created a clean environment for an engineer who had written the code himself.

"According to Bloch, nobody at Google ever spoke with him about whether it was appropriate for him to work on Android given his prior employment at Sun," the report read.

Google removed the code in question from Android with the release of version 4.0 of its software.

Oracle has sought an injunction against Android, claiming it is an "incompatible clone of Java." The company had previously argued for billions of dollars in damages from Google, but it has since lowered its demands.