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By Dan Levine and Lawrence Hurley SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Obama administration has been locked in internal wrangling over what position to take in high profile litigation between two American technology giants, Google and Oracle, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussions. It faces an end-of-May deadline to decide whether to take sides in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court that will have wide implications for the technology industry.     The case involves how much copyright protection should extend to the Java programing language. Oracle won a federal appeals court ruling last year that allows it to copyright parts of Java, while Google argues it should be free to use Java without paying a licensing fee. Google, which used Java to design its Android smartphone operating system, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Inc and electric battery maker A123 Systems are close to settling a legal dispute over claims that the smartphone and computer maker, which is also looking into building an electric vehicle, poached A123 employees to build a large-scale battery unit. A123, which makes batteries that are used in electric cars, sued Apple in February in Massachusetts federal court, claiming that around June 2014 Apple began aggressively poaching A123 engineers tasked with leading some of the company's most critical projects. Apple denied the claims. The Waltham, Mass. …

By Bill Rigby SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple's large-screen iPhones are a big hit in China, taking market share from Samsung and selling at a pace that may make China a greater source of revenue than the Americas for Apple in coming years, analysts said. The world's most valuable consumer electronics company reported on Monday a 71 percent increase in sales in China to $16.8 billion, driven by its new, bigger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. In the first three months of the year, for the first time, Apple sold more iPhones in China than in the United States. Consumer demand for the newest electronics pushed sales in China to 29 percent of total global sales for Apple in the first quarter, compared with 21 percent a year ago.

By Sarah McBride and Dan Levine SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Silicon Valley powerhouse venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers was cleared on Friday of claims it short-circuited the career of a former partner because she is a woman, in a gender discrimination trial that shook the tech world. A California jury also rejected a claim that Kleiner, the firm that backed Google Inc and Amazon.com Inc, had retaliated against its former partner, Ellen Pao, by firing her after she sued in 2012. Despite days of courtroom drama about affairs, books of erotic poetry and office flirting, juror Steve Sammut, who mostly voted for Kleiner, said the decision came down to Pao's effectiveness at her job. The verdict dashed Pao's hopes for personal vindication, but the trial revealed embarrassing disclosures about how Pao and other women were treated at Kleiner and Silicon Valley's corporate culture and its lack of diversity.

By Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – About 40 percent of adult Apple iPhone owners in the United States are interested in buying the company's new Apple Watch, according to a new Reuters/Ipsos poll. The high-tech smartwatch, which will range in price from $350 to $17,000 for an 18-karat gold model, is Apple Inc’s first major new product in five years and consumer demand for the device is being closely watched by competitors and investors. Owners of the iPhone are a particularly important market for Apple as it launches the new watch, which goes on sale April 24. Because the watch needs an iPhone to work fully, analysts say the most likely pool of initial buyers will already have an Apple smartphone in their pockets.

By Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Inc's new smartwatch may be a tough sell, with 69 percent of Americans indicating they are not interested in buying the gadget, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll. The poll was taken after Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook rolled out the product on Monday, and only about half of respondents said they had heard news of the timepiece in the last few days. Also, in an encouraging sign for Apple, roughly 13 percent of survey respondents who did not own an iPhone said that they would consider buying one in order to buy an Apple Watch, which needs an iPhone to work fully. Apple overcame skepticism about the iPad and iPod when they first debuted, but the survey suggests that the world's largest technology company has work to do to make the watch ubiquitous.

By Edwin Chan and Alexei Oreskovic SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Inc will begin selling its new watch on April 24, with the high end model starting at $10,000, the company said, rolling out its first new product in five years in a bid to extend its preeminence in mobile devices. The Apple Watch sport will start at $349 for the smaller, 38-mm model. Apple shares trimmed earlier gains and were nearly flat in mid-afternoon trade on Nasdaq.

By Joseph Menn SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world's computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives. Kaspersky said it found personal computers in 30 countries infected with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, Kaspersky said.

By Joseph Menn and Roberta Rampton SAN FRANCISCO/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama is set to sign an executive order on Friday aimed at encouraging companies to share more information about cybersecurity threats with the government and each other, a response to attacks like that on Sony Entertainment. The order sets the stage for new private-sector led “information sharing and analysis organizations” (ISAOs) – hubs where companies share cyber threat data with each other and with the Department of Homeland Security. It is one step in a long effort to make companies as well as privacy and consumer advocates more comfortable with proposed legislation that would offer participating companies liability protection, the White House said. “We believe that by clearly defining what makes for a good ISAO, that will make tying liability protection to sectoral organizations easier and more accessible to the public and to privacy and civil liberties advocates,” said Michael Daniel, Obama's cyber coordinator, in a conference call with reporters.

By Noel Randewich and Matthew Miller SAN FRANCISCO/BEIJING (Reuters) – Qualcomm Inc has agreed to pay China a fine of $975 million, the largest in the country's corporate history, ending a 14-month government investigation into anti-competitive practices. The deal also requires Qualcomm to lower its royalty rates on patents used in China, likely helping Chinese smartphone makers like Xiaomi Technology Co Ltd [XTC.UL] and Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL]. It removes a major source of concern among Qualcomm investors, sending shares of the U.S. chipmaker up 1.6 percent to $68.18 in after-hours trading. China's expanding high-speed 4G network is driving demand for smartphones with leading-edge technology, but Qualcomm's opportunities have been clouded by the antitrust investigation, which has also contributed to troubles collecting royalty payments from device makers.