I went to see a fight the other day when a hockey game broke out. The way lawsuits are flying in Silicon Valley, that wordplay could be used on tech stocks as well.
Oracle wants Google to pay "billions of dollars" in damages for the way it allegedly misused Java code to develop the Android platform. Ho-hum -- happens all the time. The database master made similarly outrageous claims in a recent tussle with rival SAP (NYSE: SAP ) -- and got a $1.3 billion decision. SAP had set aside just $160 million to pay for the damages, which it reckoned in the "tens of millions." So there's a fresh precedent for massive damages here, at least in Oracle's mind.
Here's where it gets creepy.
Google filed a court document to strike Oracle's estimate of damages from the record, on the grounds that the hired expert's "legal errors are fundamental and disqualifying, and allowing him to testify about his conclusions to a jury would prejudice Google."
But the filing itself is full of blacked-out text in the public record and is marked this way: "Contains Confidential and Highly Confidential -- Attorneys' Eyes Only Information." The stricken portions appear to discuss exactly how much money Oracle is asking for, as well as the methodologies used to arrive at that estimate.
So Oracle shot back in a very non-redacted filing of its own, clearly showing that Google had censored "[a]ny and all references to the fact that Oracle's damages claims in this case are in the billions of dollars" along with isolated words such as "multi-billion" and "valueless."
Putting a damper on Android through court injunctions or enormous fees would have massive effects on the mobile market. Not only is Google's future at stake, but handset partners from Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI ) to Samsung have a lot of poker chips in this hand, too. The companies that stand to gain from a short-circuited Android are also many, but Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) must be watching this battle with a little bit of extra glee; that license-free model could never fly in Redmond, you know.
A lawsuit of this magnitude clearly deserves a bit of drama, and we're getting it aplenty. Google, the traditional champion of open information, comes off as secretive and sneaky, while Oracle gets to say, "We have nothing to hide!"
The way I read it is a bit different. It looks like Google was trying to abide by Oracle's own confidentiality requests and simply struck a bit more than necessary from the record -- an error Oracle is all too happy to point out. Then again, I'm a Google shareholder and perhaps a little biased. Moreover, I'm no lawyer.
Perhaps you know better or have a bar degree to back up your opinions. In that case, you can read Google's filing here and Oracle's over there, and then come back to explain what's really going on. The comments box is waiting below with bated breath.