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Many attorneys in technology-based practices know a big hurdle in winning cases lies in people clueless about tech. Judges can be particularly hard to win over because of this barrier. But not the judge presiding over the Oracle v. Google copyright infringement case. He learned computer code.
Judge William Alsup has an undergraduate degree in mathematics. And as he revealed in previous trials, his knowledge extends beyond the law. He's also quite an adept computer programmer and he even learned Java for the Oracle-Google battle.
But as David Boies (Oracle's attorney) has learned, a tech-savvy judge isn't always a good thing.
Boies was taken to task by Alsup after the veteran partner made an argument regarding damages for the alleged infringement.
Boies valued the code Oracle claims Google lifted to be worth $17 million in damages. He argued the code allowed Google to get the Android OS out two days earlier, which resulted in an extra $8.5 million for them per day.
But Alsup saw it differently. He called rangeCheck (the nine lines of infringed Java code) "so simple." Simple enough that he said both Boies and he could write it. According to the judge, any competent programmer could've come up with it.
As you can probably imagine, the judge didn't buy Boies argument.
Google claims the code was accidentally included in a version of Android. And Alsup seemed to agree, at least insofar as the lines' valuation and simplicity.
Alsup demonstrates that having a judge knowledgeable in computer code can be a double-edged sword. While it can certainly make proving your case easier, it can also result in more shot-down arguments. As the attorney in Oracle v. Google discovered, you can't always hide behind tech jargon.