Google has followed up with a judge's order to disclose anyone it might have paid to influence coverage of its trial against Oracle, and the list includes a well-known Stanford professor who is often quoted without mentioning his relationship to Google. Google had initially told the court it hadn't paid anyone to comment on the case, but the judge ruled Google had "failed to comply" with his request and ordered the company to provide a more detailed list.
All these patent lawsuits have led to increased demand for expert analysis — and potential conflicts of interest
Google opens the new filing by continuing 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." That said, the company goes on to list a number of people who have commented on the case in two categories: current and former Google employees, and people who work at organizations who receive donations from Google. Most of the disclosures are fairly trivial — Google's current copyright lawyer, former interns, the Electronic Frontier Foundation — but the most interesting is Mark Lemley, a well-known professor at Stanford who Google says "serves as outside counsel" on "unrelated cases." That's a pretty fine distinction: regardless of whether Google retained Lemley for the Oracle case or not, he's still Google's lawyer, and he's almost always quoted as a Stanford professor, not "Google outside counsel."
Of course, Oracle was forced to disclose a similar relationship with blogger Florian Mueller, who is often quoted without any mention of his consulting agreements with Oracle or Microsoft. It's also not clear how widespread these relationships are throughout the industry; the explosion of patent lawsuits has led to widespread demand for expert analysis in the media, and the potential for serious conflicts of interest is extremely high. We'll see how the judge decides to handle these disclosures — and if future judges take a similar approach.