Google names paid consultants in Oracle patent case, including prominent Stanford law professor

August 28, 2012
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    In the ongoing appeal to the Oracle vs. Google case, judge William Alsup has  asked both parties to disclose the names of any bloggers, journalists or other commentators they may have paid, in order to determine whether any publicity over the case may have been influenced by any financial contributions. Oracle disclosed just one name, patent expert Florian Mueller, while Google had been reprimanded by the judge as it “failed to comply.”

    Google claimed it would be impossible to list everyone, given that publishers earn from the company’s AdSense advertising program. The search giant also contributes to charitable organizations and universities. Judge Alsup, however, countered that Google should do a reasonable disclosure, “but the impossible is not required.” As such, Google was given an extension up to last Friday to make their submission.

    Google already submitted their list, although the company continues to insist that “neither it nor its counsel has paid an author, journalist, commentator or blogger to report or comment on any issues in this case.” The list includes two categories: current and former Google employees, and individuals who work with organizations that are currently receiving donations from Google.

    To illustrate, these include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Google’s current copyright lawyer, previous interns, and other fairly trivial names. But one name stands out, writes Nilay Patel from The Verge: Stanford professor Mark Lemley, whom Google has listed as an “outside consultant” who works on “unrelated cases.”

    Lemley’s name comes to highlight because he still remains a Google counsel, even in non-related issues, and that he is often quoted in the press as the director of Stanford’s Law, Science & Technology program. As such, even as Lemley is an intellectual property expert who has extensive knowledge of patent law, there might be a question of impartiality whenever he speaks about these issues.

    The court admits that disclosure may not necessarily be material to the case, although any publcity or commentary may have “influence on the courts and/or their staff if only in subtle ways.”

    Does disclosure play a big part in making sure the case is tried in a fair manner? Perhaps these disclosures should mean that readers take online opinions and commentary with a grain of salt, since even established authors and commentators may have been influenced by any financial gain, even subtly. This, of course, brings to light some questions on editorial integrity. If an advertiser is supporting your publication’s business, will you still be able to provide a fair reportage if there are critical issues?

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