Oracle raises concern over mediation in Google case

The executive Google proposed to give its side isn't senior enough, Oracle complains

Shortly after agreeing to mediation with Google in its lawsuit over alleged Java patent violations in the Android mobile OS, Oracle has taken issue with the executive Google proposed to represent its side, saying he is not senior enough and was also part of past failed attempts at a resolution.

Google had offered up Android head Andrew Rubin and general counsel Kent Walker to argue its case in mediation, while Oracle proposed sending co-president and CFO Safra Catz and Thomas Kurian, senior vice president of product development.

"The Court's mediation plan is the last chance to resolve this case before a major investment of time and resources by the parties and the Court," Oracle said in a filing late Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. "The Court's September 2, 2011 Order appropriately directs the parties to identify 'top corporate executives' to participate in the mediation. Oracle believes the prospects for a successful mediation will be far greater if Google's executive-level representative is a superior to Mr. Rubin, who is the architect of Google's Android strategy -- the strategy that gives rise to this case."

In a filing Wednesday, Google said Rubin is "knowledgeable regarding the issues in this case and he is fully empowered to resolve this matter on reasonable terms."

Rubin also reports directly to Google CEO Larry Page, as Catz and Kurian do to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Google said.

But Oracle rejected the comparison in its filing, saying it "ignores important differences in their roles."

"Mr. Rubin is a Senior Vice-President with responsibility only for Google's mobile strategy," Oracle added. "Indeed, Google itself does not identify Mr. Rubin as a top corporate executive in its own public disclosures to investors. In contrast, Ms. Catz is Oracle's President, CFO, and a member of its Board of Directors. She has company-wide responsibility for all financial and legal matters."

Moreover, Rubin and Walker represented Google during previous, unsuccessful attempts at mediation, and therefore Judge William Alsup should order Google to appoint someone who meets the standard of "top corporate executive," Oracle said.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday, but if the pace of filings in the case so far is any indication, its attorneys will likely respond quickly.

The appointments of Rubin and Walker "are a clear indication of Google's unwillingness to put down some serious money to settle this dispute," software patent expert Florian Mueller, who has been following the case closely, wrote in a blog post Thursday.

"At this stage it's all about the availability of high-level decision makers with the authority and wiggle room to decide about many billions of dollars in negotiations in which amounts can change within hours, if not minutes or seconds," Mueller added. "Oracle's letter gives the judge additional ammunition -- which he might not even need anyway -- to step up the settlement pressure on Google."

Oracle sued Google last year, saying Android violated a number of patents and copyrights in Java, which Oracle gained through the acquisition of Sun Microsystems. Google has denied wrongdoing.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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