Oracle has admitted to the court that it retains the frequently-cited Florian Mueller of the popular blog FOSS Patents as a consultant. The official disclosure comes a week after the judge in Oracle's lawsuit against Google took the extraordinary step of ordering both parties to reveal any paid journalists or bloggers on their payrolls. Both companies filed their responses today, and Mueller is the only person named in either filing.
"Mr. Mueller is a frequent critic of Oracle."
Oracle notes in the filing that Mueller has previously disclosed his relationship with Oracle, and says that it retained Mueller only as a consultant on "competition issues" — the company claims he wasn't hired to write about the trial. Oracle also notes that Mueller has been a vocal critic of Oracle in the past, and that he'd already begun writing about the trial at the time he was hired. Even still, Mueller's enormous volume of output on FOSS Patents fairly raises the question of when he finds the time to do any serious consulting work for Oracle in between his diligently granular tracking of several international patent lawsuits, his frequent media appearances, and his additional work as a paid consultant to Microsoft.
As for Google, the company flatly tells us that "no one on our side paid journalists, bloggers, or other commentators to write about this case." The actual statement filed with the court is a bit more vague, however. Google says it's never directly paid anyone to write about the case, but it has relationships with a number of institutions like universities, political organizations, and trade associations, all of whom might employ bloggers or journalists to advocate for certain positions. Google also notes that its automated advertising programs technically involve paying bloggers for their work, but that "it would be extraordinarily difficult and perhaps impossible" for the company to identify all the people who've been paid under the programs while commenting on the case.
Mueller doesn't always voluntarily disclose his financial relationships with two major Google competitors
Google says it believes this disclosure will satisfy the court but "requests further guidance" on whether these types of relationships are what Judge Alsup meant to target. Oracle's filing is skeptical of Google's position, claiming that Google "maintains a network of direct and indirect 'influencers' to advance Google's intellectual property agenda." As evidence, Oracle specifically accuses Computer and Communications Industry Association CEO Ed Black and Interfaces on Trial 2.0 co-author Jonathan Band of being paid by Google to influence the trial. Google mentions neither in its statement.
It's not at all clear what impact these disclosures will have on the merits of the Oracle vs. Google case as it heads into appeal, but Judge Alsup's real goal may have simply been to expose some of these relationships in a highly-visible manner. Mueller may have disclosed his relationship with Oracle and Microsoft in the past, but he doesn't always voluntarily disclose his financial relationships with two major Google competitors when making statements to the press — and Mueller is prolific in that regard. He's regularly quoted in a huge variety of outlets, including Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times, as a "patent expert" or "patent consultant," but almost never as "paid Oracle consultant" or "paid Microsoft consultant." That's simply misleading, and presumably the sort of under-the-table influence Judge Alsup intended to flush out with his order. We'll see how the media — and Mueller — react.