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Oracle v. Google - My Precious
Saturday, July 23 2011 @ 09:59 AM EDT

Sorry for the movie analogies, but these images keep popping to mind. The latest is Larry Ellison as Gollum, grasping his "Java" patents and declaring, "My Precious." This comes to mind because of the revelation yesterday that Jonathan Schwartz, then CEO of Sun Microsystems, praised Google and others for incorporating Java into Android back in 2007.

Then the patents fell out of Sun's hands and into Oracle's (My Precious), and Schwartz' statement became an embarrassment. What to do? Why remove it from the internet, of course. But thanks to the Internet Archive and its Wayback Machine, Schwartz' statement survives.

Now the interesting question about this and other similar comments that were apparently made by Sun executives is whether the statements communicated an understanding to Google and others that they would not be threatened with Sun's patents; statements upon which they relied. This is the legal doctrine of estoppel.

I make a statement. (Congratulations, on incorporating my company's technology into yours even without a license to my patents.)

You hear the statement, and in reliance on the message the statement conveys rely on the statement to your detriment. (You incorporate the technology and, as a result, allegedly infringe the patents.)

I then try to enforce the patents against you but am barred from doing so under the doctrine of estoppel. (I cannot now deny I encouraged the infringement in the first place or at least led you to believe it was okay.)

To be fair, this isn't the easiest argument to make, but Google has already included it as an exhibit to its defenses.

I just can't get that image out of my head of LPOD sitting in a cave admiring "My Precious."


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