Folks, patent litigation is currently one of the more profitable enterprises today, at least if you're a patent lawyer, one of the plaintiffs, or if your name happens to be Florian Mueller. In an interesting turn of events, Oracle has confirmed Mr. Mueller, a patent blogger who runs FOSS Patents, to have been a paid consultant who had been assisting in looking into “competition issues.”
This issue came into prominence in Oracle's appeal to the negative ruling against the company's patent litigation lawsuit against Google. The judge ordered both companies to disclose if they have paid any bloggers or journalists to cover the proceedings or write in their favor. The deadline had been set at noontime of August 17. So far, only Oracle has admitted to having paid bloggers, although they say it was only in the interest of seeking advice on the said competition issues.
Oracle has retained Florian Mueller, author of the blog FOSS Patents, www.fosspatents.com, as a consultant on competition-related matters, especially relating to standards-essential patents. Oracle notes that Mr. Mueller fully disclosed his relationship with Oracle in a blog posting dated April 18, 2012; that Oracle retained him after he had begun writing about this case; and that he was not retained to write about the case. Mr. Mueller is a frequent critic of Oracle and was a leading advocate against Oracle’s acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Inc., which led to Oracle’s ownership of Sun's Java IP portfolio.
In the same breath, however, Oracle notes that Mueller had been a vocal critic of the company in the past, even during his stint as a paid consultant. Mueller, himself, had admitted to being in Oracle's payroll last April, as well as doing paid consultancy work for Microsoft, another company involved in patent litigation.
Meanwhile, Google said it doesn't pay anyone to write about their case. “[N]o one on our side paid journalists, bloggers, or other commentators to write about this case,” Google stated in its own filing. However, the search giant sought clarification whether receiving bloggers' ad revenues from their AdSense program would constitute payment. If such, “it would be extraordinarily difficult and perhaps impossible” to identify everyone who was compensated this way.
According to the Verge, even if Google claims it doesn't directly pay anyone to blog for them, the company has relationships with institutions like universities, political organizations and trade associations that have relationships with bloggers and media organizations involving their own advocacy. Oracle has claimed that Google “maintains a network of direct and indirect ‘influencers' to advance Google's intellectual property agenda.”
Still, it's not clear what this disclosure actually aims to achieve, and whether these will have any impact on the case at all. Perhaps the judge just wanted each company to provide adequate disclosure if they were influencing the media. This can be especially important in ensuring fairness at least in terms of public perception. Mueller, after all, has often been quoted by the press as a “patent expert,” whenever news items and op-eds on patent cases are published.