Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems in January 2010. In August 2010, it filed a lawsuit against Google for patent infringement, unlawful use of Java APIs and a host of other illegalities over Android. While a good number of Oracle’s earlier claims have been invalidated by courts, the recent trial sees the scale tipping in Oracle’s favor with evidence of willful infringement drilling a hole in Google’s defense.
I’m a big follower of FOSSPatents, authored by Florian Mueller, ‘an award-winning intellectual property activist-turned-analyst with 25 years of software industry expertise spanning across different market segments.’ I’m also a big Android lover (but not necessarily an iOS hater) and I’ve been keeping tabs on what’s going on in the Oracle vs. Google war through his blog. According to recent reports, it doesn’t look too good for Google. Of course, it’s a trial between two giants and they could be at it for years. At least, that’s what many experts believe. But then again, think back on how RIM had to pay NTP $612.5 million to settle a patent infringement suit. With BlackBerry reigning the corporate sector then, this was a cheaper deal for RIM.
In the case of Google, Oracle is accusing it of using copyrighted Java APIs without license. That means the Android OS that resides on more than 300 million handsets across the world is using libraries that could fetch Oracle a pretty sum if the licensing deal comes through, not to mention damages.
During the trial, Oracle opened with a presentation of ten documents indicating willful infringement, from a five-year period in the middle of which Google launched Android. It includes email communication in which Google (source Tim Lindholm, also a prospective witness to be called by Oracle) actually states ‘We’ve been over a bunch of [technical alternatives to Java for Android], and they all suck. We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need.’
As I said earlier, it’s not a pretty picture for Google. That looks like willful infringement to me too with Google trying to get away with using copyrighted code without having to pay licensing fees. Google is defending its actions by citing then-Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz’s blog post in which he ‘publicly applaud[ed]’ Android and an email from Schwartz to then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt offering to ‘support’ the announcement of Android. Unfortunately, that is not tantamount to ‘license.’
From an enterprise mobility angle, if Google loses this battle, Android could lose the little percentage it holds in the corporate sector. Android may no longer be as attractive to handset manufacturers either if Google collects Oracle’s royalty in its costs. That’s not a happy situation at all.
As far as Android protagonists (that includes me) are concerned, they’ll want Oracle and Google to come to amicable terms so that the growth of Android, at least, is not hindered. The open source platform enjoys huge popularity among mobile manufacturers and hackers, and it has made huge strides in the past year.
I guess all we can do is keep our fingers crossed.
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