Google's founder and chief executive Larry Page appeared in court in San Francisco yesterday in what is shaping up as one of the most significant battles over smartphone patents and copyright.

Accused by Oracle boss Larry Ellison of building Google's Android smartphone operating system on the back of his company's intellectual property, Page said he had little knowledge of the internal discussions over whether it needed a licence to use Oracle's Java programming language.

His appearance came after Ellison testified on Wednesday, when he called Android a "cheap knock-off". Android's Java-based software is installed in 300 million smartphones, and Oracle is claiming US$1 billion ($1.2 billion) in fees and damages from Google.

Oracle's lawyer, David Boies, asked Page: "Would it have been a violation of policy for engineers to copy copyrighted materials of other companies?"


Page said Google was "very careful about what information we used". He disputed that Android was critical to Google, but said he wouldn't be surprised if Google's board was told that Android is critical to the company.

Oracle offers Java on an open source basis, but while it is free to developers for some uses, it requires a licence in others. Because of those licensing rules and the complexity of the code, the trial is expected to last eight weeks.

Google had several Oracle patents struck out and says damages would be less than US$100 million, even if it lost.

- Independent