Android is an operating system that runs smart phones and other mobile devices. Java software programming language is alleged to have been used by developers writing the managed code in Java language, as used by Google’s Android. Oracle’s Complaint alleges seven (7) counts of patent infringement and one (1) count of copyright infringement.
The Patent infringement allegations in the several counts allege that in addition to infringing on Oracle’s patented systems and methods, that “Google has also induced and contributed to the infringement of the…patent[s] by purchasers, licensees, and users of Android, and is continuing to induce and contribute to the infringement of the…patent[s] by purchasers, licensees, and users of Android.” Count I at para.18.
Regarding Oracle’s allegation of Copyright infringement the complaint states: “Google’s Android infringes on Oracle America’s copyrights in Java and Google is not licensed to do so.” Count VIII at para. 40. Oracle alleged that their Java platform “contains a substantial amount of original material (including without limitation code, specifications, documentation and other materials) that is copyrightable subject matter under the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 106.” Count VIII at para. 38.
According to the August 17, 2010 article published in CBS’ moneywatch.com, Oracle vs. Google: Fallout Could Be Felt Across the Tech Sector, Wall Street did not show a disruption to either company’s stock prices. “Technology stocks from Google on down may be ripe for a decline, however, as investors come to realize the implications, including higher costs and therefore lower profits, of what is being called “a case of Goliath versus Goliath”.” The article further comments: “What buyers (and holders) may not realize is that the technology industries and all of us who rely on them may have an immense free lunch – the open-source software programs, such as Java, that run a lot of applications and gadgets – taken off the table.”
Chicago-based attorney Marcus Harris comments on the suit:
“Many patent infringement cases follow a predictable cycle: a flurry of press releases, negotiation and then settlement via a cross licensing arrangement. With the exception of it’s suit against Alcatel-Lucent, Oracle does not have a history of settling its intellectual property suits. Nor does Oracle have a history of offensive patent actions. Instead, Oracle likes to play for keeps. Oracle’s traditionally aggressive stance is on display in its SAP/TomorrowNow litigation where Oracle continues to go after SAP despite SAP’s court filing last week indicating it was willing to pay millions of dollars in damages to Oracle.”
The Google suit is not interesting just because it involves two industry heavyweights. It is interesting because it has potentially huge implications for open source software.
Google’s official statement reads:
We are disappointed Oracle has chosen to attack both Google and the open-source Java community with this baseless lawsuit. The open-source Java community goes beyond any one corporation and works every day to make the web a better place. We will strongly defend open-source standards and will continue to work with the industry to develop the Android platform.
While Android as been touted as an open platform that “runs’ on Java, the reality is a bit more complicated. Open source software while “open” is still subject to a license and it appears that certain license terms may have prevented the particular Java code at issue from being used in a mobile application. Google apparently went to great lengths to get around these restrictions. Google’s efforts are detailed here: http://www.betaversion.org/~stefano/linotype/news/110/
Whether Google’s efforts were effective is for a court to decide. Ultimately, the enforcement of Oracle’s patents against Google could hugely impact the sale of the Android platform and potentially chill open-source standards. It is a reminder to our client base to fully understand the use of open source software in the development of their commercial products. The failure to fully understand the impact of using supposedly free and open source software could easily land you on the receiving end of a lawsuit. Operating in the background of this suit is a current hot potato, Google’s recent negative press on their recent collaboration with Verizon on a potential shift away from net neutrality, (Wikipedia: Network neutrality) the principle that there should not be restrictions on the Internet by Internet service providers (ISP’s) and governments on content, sites, platforms, on the kinds of equipment that may be attached, and no restrictions on the modes of communication allowed. Internet restrictions and control by ISP’s (i.e., non-neutrality) could give cable companies providing Internet service the ability to screen, interrupt or filter Internet content, to which proponents of net neutrality are staunchly opposed.