Oracle Lawyer Chastised for Telling Google Secrets

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — A federal judge on Thursday scolded an Oracle attorney for revealing Google’s secrets in open court earlier this year.
Oracle attorney Annette Hurst said during a Jan. 14 discovery hearing that Google made $31 billion in revenue and $22 billion in profit since launching its Android mobile platform in 2008. Hurst also revealed that Google paid Apple $1 billion to include the Google search function on iPhones.
Hurst uttered the secrets, which were protected by a court order, as she argued for Google to turn over details of its revenue-sharing agreements with mobile device makers ahead of a second copyright trial between the two tech giants.
Although at least one news reporter was present at the hearing, the disclosures didn’t make global headlines until a few days later, before the court transcript was sealed and later redacted upon Google’s request.
In July, Google filed a motion to hold Hurst — of the law firm Orrick, Herrington and Suttcliffe — in contempt of court for disclosing the numbers, which became “available to third parties involved in negotiations with both Google and Apple.”
During a hearing on that motion Thursday, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said he was disappointed that Hurst’s lawyer, former U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, refused to admit Hurst “screwed up” when she “blurted out” the confidential numbers.
“I think you’re afraid to come out and say she screwed up,” Alsup said. “In my mind, she should have never done that.”
Alsup added he wouldn’t be surprised if other lawyers cite this breach as a reason not to trust Hurst’s firm with confidential data in the future.
“Someone with her experience should know you don’t blurt that out in open court with the newspaper there,” Alsup said.
Haag told the judge that Hurst lacked intent to violate the protective order, and that she merely paraphrased some information from a confidential deposition transcript to illustrate her point during a long back-and-forth with U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu.
Google attorney Bruce Baber called a finding of contempt or at least violation of the court’s order necessary to ensure the integrity of protective orders used in many cases involving technology firms that are litigated in the Northern District of California.
“This is not about trying to punish anyone,” Baber said. “It’s important for the court to clarify the protective order.”
Alsup stated emphatically that he considered the disclosures a violation of the court’s order, but added that he wasn’t likely to find that Hurst acted in bad faith intentionally or to find her in contempt of court.
Last May, a second trial between the two tech giants ended with a jury finding that Google’s use of Oracle’s copyrighted Java code in its Android mobile platform was fair use.
In August, Oracle argued its motion for a new trial, claiming Google tainted the jury’s verdict by hiding its plans to expand Android to laptop and desktop computers. Alsup has not yet ruled on that motion.

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