SAN FRANCISCO – Software giant Oracle and Google are set to face off in what is being described as the "World Series of intellectual property trials," which gets underway with jury selection in a federal court in San Francisco later Monday.
The issue is Java, the software platform Oracle owns as a result of its purchase of Sun Microsystems in 2010.
The witness list will be interesting -- both Google CEO Larry Page and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison are expected to take the stand during the trial, as will former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz and Andy Rubin, Google's senior vice president who runs its Android and mobile operations.
The allegations are fairly simple, but the case could have significant impact if Oracle prevails in some of its arguments. Oracle sued Google in the summer of 2010, alleging that the Android mobile operating system violated seven different Java patents.
Five of those patents were tossed out after they were re-examined, leaving two. That reduces the potential amount of damages that Oracle might be entitled to in the case.
Google went so far as to offer to cut Oracle in on Android and $2.8 million in damages, in the event it prevails. Oracle declined.
The other issue, and the one that has the potential for more lasting impact, is over copyright. Oracle will argue that Google violated copyrights on Java. Specifically, Oracle alleges that when Google was creating Android, it copied a lot of material -- more than 37 Java application programming interfaces (APIs) and 11 lines of Java source code -- claiming these are subject to copyright protection like other intellectual property.
This is a new and controversial legal argument that has software developers watching the trial closely.
Google has argued that APIs should not be subject to copyright protection because they are more akin to tools and techniques that programmers use to build software.