Google to Defend Android, Open Source vs. Oracle Suit

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2010-08-14

Google to Defend Android, Open Source vs. Oracle Suit

Google Aug. 13 called Oracle's patent infringement lawsuit against the search engine "baseless" and vowed to "strongly defend" open-source standards and protect its Android operating system.

"We are disappointed Oracle has chosen to attack both Google and the open-source Java community with this baseless lawsuit," a Google spokesperson told eWEEK.

"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."

Oracle sued Google Aug. 12, alleging the company infringed on seven patents and other copyrights related to Java. Oracle acquired thousands of Java-related patents through its $5.6 billion purchase of Sun Microsystems, later renamed Oracle America.

Android includes Java applications running on a Java-based application framework and core libraries running on a Dalvik virtual machine.

According to the suit, "Google actively distributes Android (including without limitation the Dalvik VM and the Android software development kit) and promotes its use by manufacturers of products and applications."   

Android is wildly successful, shipping in 200,000 smartphones per day. Android-based smartphones outsold Apple's popular iPhone in units shipped for the second quarter, according to Nielsen and others.

Despite negotiations, Google did not have a licensing agreement with Sun for Java, but Sun let Google slide. Oracle revived talks after acquiring Sun but discussions broke down after the two parties couldn't agree on licensing fees, according to the Wall Street Journal.

For that reason, Oracle is suing to enjoin Google from facilitating Android development and is seeking damages because it claims Google engineers were aware of the patents.

How the Oracle-Google Android Suit Will Shake Out


James Gosling, who created Java while working for Sun, said he knew the day would come when Oracle would train its legal guns on Google.

Positioning Oracle's suit as an attack on open source is a masterful stroke by Google. The software development community is ringed with open-source software supporters. One, software developer Florian Mueller, wrote in his blog Aug. 13 that Oracle is going after open source with this suit.

"Even if some Android-based or Android-related products may include components that don't meet open-source criteria, I find it impossible to imagine that the patents Oracle tries to enforce here would be infringed only by closed-source components and not by Android's many open-source components.

"Therefore, I consider this a patent attack on free software and open source," Mueller added.

Miguel de Icaza, who created the GNOME and Mono open-source projects, said Google's Android team angered Sun when, instead of licensing the Java Micro Edition, it took the code and recompiled it to form the Dalvik virtual machine.

This enabled Google to obviate "whatever licensing technicalities they were aware at the time of the negotiations."

De Icaza said he believes Google will pay Sun billions of dollars to license the Java code for Android, but may not offer protection for those developing Android applications.

"An unlikely scenario is for Google to pay the bills for all Android OEMs as they are coming out fast and strong from every corner of the world," he wrote. "It occurred to me that Oracle could sell all the Java assets to Google. But Google probably passed on this opportunity back when Sun was put on the market."

Whatever the case, this is a legal battle that is likely to drag on, with Google's future to effectively penetrate the mobile Web versus Apple's iPhone in the balance.

Rocket Fuel