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Summary:

So, what does it mean that Oracle has sued Google (NSDQ: GOOG), alleging that Android infringes on its Java patents? There are a ton of theo…

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So, what does it mean that Oracle has sued Google (NSDQ: GOOG), alleging that Android infringes on its Java patents? There are a ton of theories out there, but first some background on the lawsuit and the players involved, including Google’s commonality to Java and how it — or its partners — may be overstepping the bounds.

There’s some history to this lawsuit. Java was originally developed by Sun Microsystems, and was recently acquired by Oracle when it purchased Sun in April 2009. Initially, the programming language was promised as a way for developers to “write-once, run anywhere,” however, that proved to be much more difficult than originally thought. Regardless, Java’s “mobile edition” has long been used by mobile phones.

As far as Oracle’s connection to Google, Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO, was previously the CTO at Sun, where he led the development of Java.

Gizmodo reports that Google said in a statement today, “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.”

The actual compliant (via Engadget), filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California, goes a little deeper than the press release, and hints that Google itself is not the problem, it’s the device manufacturers. It claims that the device manufacturers must obtain copyrighted versions of the Java platform to use on Android devices. “Such use is not licensed,” it says, adding that Google has “induced, caused, and materially contributed to the infringing acts of others by encouraging, inducing, allowing and assisting others to use, copy, and distribute” these copyrighted works.

HTC and Motorola (NYSE: MOT), two of the leading Android handset makers, did not reply to requests for comment. UPDATE: An HTC spokesman replied, saying no comment.

As for what the impact could be to the rest of the industry, there’s a few ideas floating around:

– According to the WSJ, Google was widely assumed to have rights to use Java under a licensing agreement, though the companies never announced a deal. The suit is “very perplexing,” said Kim Polese, a former Sun manager who subsequently worked with open-source software. “Everyone is using Java.” Sun was often criticized by investors for making little money on Java. Oracle, on the other hand, seems determined to wring more profit from Sun’s intellectual property. WSJ.

– “The fact that Oracle has chosen to sue Google over its implementation is sure to cause concern in the wider Java community.” Ars Technica.

– Mary Jo Foley writes that the lawsuit could be good news to Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), which is just gearing up to release Windows Phone 7. “Even though the Redmondians have no love for Oracle and consider the company one of Microsoft

  1. email oracle and tell them to reconsider their actions (F*** OFF!)

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  2. Thanks for the great article and the corrections. It has been interesting to hear Gosling and Nutter speak on this issue, and quite frankly I think we will look back on this lawsuit in the coming years and point to it as a catalyst for wherever Java is at that point. I personally wonder the path the language and the platform are going to take. I also wonder if we are going to see the rise of something on it’s own unique platform such as Google Go. I was expecting Google to foster Java development going forward, but I wonder how much that is in their roadmap now.

    I will have to add your article to my own Summaries of War: Oracle vs Google

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  3. Oracle has contributed nothing significant lately. I guess they see Google’s runaway success on the android platform and want to cash in any way they can. Pathetic. Google has done more to advance the Java platform than Oracle. The use of J2ME on Google phones would have been absolutely disastrous, the move to a “new” Java was definitely the way to go.

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  4. Well, Microsoft had to pay 1.6b when their virtual machine looked too much on the JVM. Google didn’t made a licensing deal like Blackberry, Nokia and other phone makers that use Java ME. Seems pretty logical that they have to pay for it. Android would never have gotten so popular if they had to come up with their own programming language. Even though Android has a way better Java ME ecosystem and Oracle doesn’t seem to improve Java ME much, it has causes fragmentation. Java is no longer write once run everywhere. Smartphones are fast enough to run Java SE now anyway, I hope that Java ME and Java SE will become one Java again that will be the standard for both computers and mobiles.

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  5. Greedy beyond all recognition Ellison (they demand 6 billion $ from Google) has degraded Oracle to nothing more than a parasite in the IT world. It no longer brings value (Oracle DB). Now it brings harm. Proofs?
    - putting their hands on Java – the most widely used programming language in the world. Now what? Are you gonna sue every developer, every handset producer using it?
    - buying and commercializing MySQL which was a perfect free competition to Oracle DB. 
    Fortunately Postgres DB still exists. Long live Postgres!

    I wonder what will happen next about Google vs. Oracle. 

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