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Google Asks to Punish Oracle Lawyer Who Spilled Apple Secrets


Google and Oracle really, really don’t like each other. The latest evidence? Well, how about Google’s latest request for a judge to sanction its rival’s lawyer, Annette Hurst, for allegedly violating court rules over secrecy.

In a filing last week, Google renewed its push to punish Hurst, who in the course of an epic intellectual property trial, revealed in open court that the search giant pays Apple (AAPL) $1 billion a year to include its search bar on the iPhone.

That figure, Google says, was supposed to be a highly confidential secret until Hurst blabbed about in court, leading Bloomberg to report the details of the arrangement. Those details reportedly involve Google paying up to 34% of the revenue it gets from iPhone searches to Apple.

Google claims this information was supposed to be kept under wraps as a result of a protective order from the court. (Such orders are used in the legal process known as discovery, where opposing sides inspect each other’s documents and witnesses, to ensure confidential business secrets don’t become part of the public record.)

“Oracle’s disclosures … reveal a profound disregard for this Court’s Protective Order and for other parties’ confidential information. Google and third party Apple were harmed by Oracle’s counsel’s disclosure regarding the terms of a significant and confidential commercial agreement,” said Google in a June 29 letter to the court.

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The letter comes after an earlier January request by Google (GOOG) to punish Oracle (ORCL). U.S. District Judge William Alsup said at the time he would only allow consider it after the end of the trial, which ended with a jury verdict in favor of Google in late May.

Alsup last week granted Google’s request to go forward with its request for sanctions, telling each side to submit arguments as to whether Hurst, who works for Oracle’s outside counsel firm Orrick, should be punished.

Oracle has yet to file its response, but the company has made clear it doesn’t think Hurst did anything wrong.

“Oracle will oppose this frivolous motion, which is premised on oral arguments in open court that were a response to Google’s misrepresentations,” said Oracle spokesperson Deborah Hellinger in an email to Fortune.

It will be up to Alsup to decide if the iPhone information really would have been come out anyway—or if Hurst and Oracle spilled it as a tactical decision to hurt Google, and decided to risk the consequences.

It’s pretty rare for courts to sanction lawyers for violating a protective order, but such examples are not unprecedented. Google is relying on a federal rule, and it is calling for Alsup to fine Hurst and Oracle for civil contempt of court. Such fines in the past have typically been relatively low and, in the event Alsup imposes one, it’s doubtful the amount would even represent a rounding error on Oracle’s books.

For Google, the sanctions motion represents a victory lap or sorts. The company already notched a slam-dunk win before the jury, and it is already seeking millions in fees and costs as a result. An official slap-down of Hurst would be icing on the cake.