U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California’s investigation into financial relationships that Google and Oracle had with bloggers or other commenters on their heavyweight IP case has come to a quiet end.
In a brief order Tuesday, Alsup said he would “take no further action regarding the subject of payments by the litigants to commentators and journalists.” He went on to reassure “both sides that no commentary has in any way influenced the court’s orders and ruling herein save and except for any treatise or article expressly cited in an order or ruling.”
Alsup’s latest comments on “shills” came in an order denying Google’s motion for judgment as a matter of law on the two minor copyright infringement findings a jury made against Google in the spring following a lengthy trial. Google beat back all of Oracle’s other copyright and patent infringement claims levied over Google’s use of certain computer code in its Android operating system.
Two months after trial had wrapped up, Alsup sent shock waves through the technology law, journalism and blogging communities with an August 7 order stating he was “concerned that the parties and/or counsel herein may have retained or paid print or Internet authors, journalists, commentators or bloggers who have and/or may publish comments on the issues in this case.” On his own motion he ordered the parties to identify “all authors, journalists, commentators or bloggers who have reported or commented on any issues in this case and who have received money (other than normal subscription fees) from the party or its counsel during the pendency of this action.”
In response, Oracle identified one blogger, Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents, with whom it has a consulting relationship. Google said the universe of people meeting the criteria of Alsup’s order was too large to list, but reassured the judge that it hadn’t paid anyone “to report or comment on any issues in this case” or otherwise struck a “quid pro quo” arrangement for favorable coverage. Alsup told Google it was interpreting his order too narrowly, and a week later the company filed 270 pages of information on commentary ranging from academic treatises to Twitter posts written by Google employees. Google emphasized that it hadn’t commissioned any of the writings, and in the case of the academic treatise it was produced many years before Google hired the author.
Scott Graham is a reporter for The Recorder, a Legal affiliate based in San Francisco.