Oracle Finally Takes Google To Court
Oracle versus Google, the “World Series of court cases” starts today
Oracle’s landmark copyright court case with Google, in which it is claiming $1 billion (£630m) in compensation for Android’s Java technology, finally reaches a San Francisco court today.
Oracle says Android developers violated copyrights to the Java software platform, infringed two (brought down from an earlier seven) Java-related patents and illegally used design specifications of at least 37 application programming interface packages (APIs).
Oracle filed this complaint in 2010, basing its claim on patents for the Java portable code technology, widely used in smartphones, which Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsysatems in 2009. The last round of settlement talks collapsed earlier this month.
This precedent-setting case could influence the future of open-source software development and have important consequences for Android operating system.
“This is the “World Series” of high-tech law cases,” said veteran federal judge William Alsup, presiding over the case.
Oracle estimated that by 2011, the Java platform had attracted more than 6.5 million software developers, and that more than 1.1 billion desktop computers and 3 billion mobile phones ran Java. In comparison, Android is running on around 150 million devices.
A large portion of Google’s Android operating system, which the company is giving away for free, is based on Java. Oracle suggests the search giant used its programming language “to capitalize on the large community of Java software developers”. But when it couldn’t get a license on the terms it wanted, Google decided to use the language and associated APIs anyway, and deal with the consequences later. If so, now that time has come.
Google is accused of infringing copyrights of the Java software platform, and two of Oracle’s Java-related patents. In addition, according to court documents submitted by Oracle, “Google copied the design specifications of at least 37 application programming interface packages (“APIs”) for Java’s core libraries into Android’s core libraries.”
“The designs for those 37 Java APIs, spanning 11,000 printed pages, contain the carefully-wrought architecture for thousands of individual Java class files, methods, and data fields at the core of the Java platform.”
Google has argued that the APIs are an essential part of the free Java programming language, and should not be protected by the copyright law. “That is a classic attempt to improperly assert copyright over an idea rather than expression,” said Google attorney Robert Van Nest in a court filing.
Google’s position has been weakened by the leaked corporate e-mails that seem to confirm it knew it had to negotiate a license if it was to use Java.
Both Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Google CEO Larry Page are listed on Oracle’s list of potential witnesses. Interestingly, earlier this year Google hired James Gosling, one of prominent Java creators, in a tactical move that might give it an edge in the courtroom.
Write once, run somewhere
Of course, Oracle would want to make money from its intellectual property. But it claims it has suffered harm far beyond a lost license fee. “By incorporating the specific copyrighted works and patented inventions into Android and giving Android away for free, Google has undermined Oracle’s ability to license Java to wireless device manufacturers.”
“Worse still, because Android exploits Java but is not fully compatible with it, Android represents Sun’s, and now Oracle’s, nightmare: an incompatible forking of the Java platform, which undermines the fundamental “write once, run anywhere” premise of Java that is so critical to its value and appeal.”
If Oracle wins the API copyright claims it could force Google to alter Android, and make the developers change every single app running on this OS.
The trial is expected to last eight weeks.
Oracle has recently rejected Google’s offer of a cut of the Android revenue, calling it too low.
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