When Lawyers Send Letters

Google Swears It’s Hired Zero Shills, While Oracle Continues Hollering Foul Play [UPDATED]

Second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse.
william alsup district judge Google Swears Its Hired Zero Shills, While Oracle Continues Hollering Foul Play [UPDATED]

Judge Alsup

Earlier this month, Judge William Alsup issued a demand for both parties in the Google v. Oracle patent dispute: Provide a list of any bloggers, journalists, or other commentators on the payroll. Paid Content reports that the two companies have now filed their responses. Google insists it has not paid anyone for positive coverage, while Oracle admitted to hiring patents blogger Florian Mueller as a “consultant on competition-related matters.”

The case itself is mostly done, with Google emerging largely victorious. At this point, the two parties are arguing over whether Oracle has to pay Google’s court costs.

Google issued this double-pinky swear:

“Neither Google nor its counsel has paid an author, journalist, commentator or blogger to report or comment on any issues in this case. And neither Google nor its counsel has been involved in any quid pro quo in exchange for coverage of or articles about the issues in this case.”

The company is all concerned frowns and upraised palms in the statement, sounding so sorry it can’t be more helpful while requesting a little assistance from Judge Alsup in figuring out just what it is His Honor would like to know:

“Rather than flooding the Court with long lists of such individuals or organizations who might have written something about the case, Google outlines below several general categories of individuals and organizations and requests the Court’s further guidance as to whether it would be useful for Google to provide more details or attempt to compile a more comprehensive list.”

The categories of parties Google admits to showering with cash include university and non-profit organizations; political organizations and trade organizations; Google employees, contractors, and vendors; expert consultants and witnesses for this case, specifically; witnesses who’ve worked for Google. Any of these good folks might very well have written about the case, Google says, but not at Google’s urging. (We can’t imagine it’s exactly easy to contravene the wishes of the corporation signing one’s grant checks, however.)

Oracle, on the other hand, cops to hiring Mr. Mueller (who has written extensively on the case), then goes on the attack:

In contrast, Oracle notes that Google maintains a network of direct and indirect “influencers” to advance Google’s intellectual property agenda. This network is extensive, including attorneys, lobbyists, trade associations, academics, and bloggers, and its focus extends beyond pure intellectual property issues to competition/antitrust issues.

All that’s underlined in the original document, by the way. The statement goes on to insist that “Google brought this extensive network of influences to help shape public perceptions concerning the positions it was advocating throughout this trial.”

While Oracle comes out of this little tiff sounding a little like a paranoiac raving on a street corner, we can’t help but notice that Google, with its oh-so-accommodating stance, gives off a faint whiff of Eddie Haskell.

UPDATED: Sounds like Judge Alsup wanted something a little more expansive than disclosures of outright advertorial. He’s issued another order, painstakingly outlining how conflicts of interest work and demanding that Google submit a new list. We can’t help but hear a note of fury in the document.

Via the Verge:

The August 7 order was not limited to authors “paid . . . to report or comment” or to “quid pro quo” situations. Rather, the order was designed to bring to light authors whose statements about the issues in the case might have been influenced by the receipt of money from Google or Oracle. For example, Oracle has disclosed that it retained a blogger as a consultant.  Even though the payment was for consulting work, the payment might have influenced the blogger’s reports on issues in the civil action.

He wants “all commenters known by Google to have received payments as consultants, contractors, vendors, or employees,” by Friday at noon.

Judge Alsup added: “Google suggests that it has paid so many commenters that it will be impossible to list them all. Please simply do your best but the impossible is not required. Oracle managed to do it.”

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com