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Judge gives Google until Friday to dish on paid media

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Judge William Alsup has said that Google "failed to comply" with his August 7 order to disclose any paid relationships with the media as part of its ongoing patent litigation with Oracle, and has given the search giant five days to resubmit.

In his original order, Judge Alsup had asked that both parties in the case reveal any paid relationships with bloggers, journalists, commentators, or other media representatives whose statements might have influenced public opinion regarding the case.

Google denied having any such relationships in a statement issued last Friday, although it said that it would be "extraordinarily difficult and perhaps impossible" to cite all of the authors who may have written about the case and who may have indirect financial relationships with the Chocolate Factory through its participation in trade groups.

In a new order issued on Monday, Judge Alsup said that Google's response was insufficient and gave it until Friday, August 24 to submit a revised statement.

"Please simply do your best but the impossible is not required," the judge wrote. "Oracle managed to do it. Google can do it too by listing all commenters known by Google to have received payments as consultants, contractors, vendors, or employees."

Judge Alsup was apparently more satisfied with Oracle's statement, which acknowledged that Oracle had a paid consulting relationship with blogger Florian Mueller. Mueller himself had disclosed his relationship with the database maker in an August 18 blog post.

Although Oracle cited Mueller as its sole example of a potential paid media link, however, it went further, giving two names of individuals who it said had a financial stake in Google's success, due to membership in Chocolate Factory–backed industry trade groups.

Google acknowledged that it funded various groups in its own statement to the court, but denied that these funds were intended to influence the groups' public statements or that it had paid any person or group specifically to comment on the case.

In his order, Judge Alsup said that his August 7 order was not limited to pay-for-comment arrangements but was intended to reveal any authors whose statements may have been influenced by money from Google.

"Just as a treatise on the law may influence the courts, public commentary that purports to be independent may have an influence on the courts and/or their staff if only in subtle ways," the judge wrote. "If a treatise author or blogger is paid by a litigant, should not that relationship be known?"

Oracle did not mention any relationships with industry trade groups in its own statement, and Judge Alsup has not asked it to resubmit. ®

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