Oracle Sues Google Over Android Code

26 Comments

Oracle (s orcl) today filed a complaint for patent and copyright infringement against Google (s goog) over some of the Java code used in Google’s Android mobile operating system. At first glance, suit,which accuses Google of infringing seven patents as well as violating copyright, seems like both a Larry Ellison-style provocation against Google while it’s reeling from the network neutrality fight and leaked memos on privacy, and the coming true of developers’ worst fears following Oracle’s purchase of Sun, the creator of Java. Oracle’s terse press release on the suit says:

In developing Android, Google knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property. This lawsuit seeks appropriate remedies for their infringement.

Given that Android’s been on the market as open-source code since 2007, and Oracle has owned Sun since January, it’s unclear why the suit is being filed now, but perhaps the fact that Google is seeing 200,000 Android devices activated every day has something to do with it. However, if Oracle’s really going after everyone using Java, things could get really hairy in the world of mobile phones and enterprise software — after all, Java is the underpinning for a lot of applications, as Oracle undoubtedly knows. Neither Oracle nor Google returned requests for comment.

And since Oracle asks in its complaint not only for treble damages (basically what you ask for when you’re sure folks have knowingly infringed on your patents, of which there are seven in this particular case) and demands that all infringing copies of its software or means of reproducing the software be “impounded and destroyed, or otherwise reasonably disposed of,” folks had better keep their Motorola (s MOT) Droids and HTC Evos close at hand. The full complaint is below. Share and enjoy.

FINAL Complaint

Image courtesy of Flickr user Nosha

26 Comments

Tim F.

I can’t tell if you read this article at all. The article is clearly written by a developer who is excited by using Dalvik without the burden of “Sun’s Java” but then it goes on to point out that there are innumerable IP issues and says several times that IP litigation is inevitable and highly risky for Google. (Basically, every addendum says, “Oh crap, there’s this legal issue and that legal issue…”

Samat Jain

It’s clear why Oracle waited: (closed door) licensing negotiations broke down, so they thought it was time to take it to court.

Miguel Icasa (of Mono/.NET fame) has some more detailed first thoughts and insight.

My own thoughts:

Java has no future. Java’s income streams are trivial—it now exists only to be used as a tool in patent shakedowns by Oracle. Not to mention, how luminaries like James Gosling (creator of Java) have quit.
Google should have used open-source Sun JVM under the GPL. This has a bunch of “nasty”, business-unfriendly side effects…

Google will definitely get out of this, but as Miguel notes—it’s unlikely to cover the tail of hardware manufacturers and other downstream users (look at WebM), which Oracle will in turn sue. The future of Android as a platform looks pretty shaky.

Tim F.

I think the timing is more natural than your conspiratorial theories. It’s only been about a year that the NDK has allowed developers to target Dalvik fully with native C and C++ code. This would be the moment when it became apparent that Google was using Java as a trojan horse to “steal it away” from Sun/Oracle, in much the way that Microsoft had tried. Such a case, contemporaneous with still managing the process of integrating Sun with Oracle while trying to figure out what it had WHILE Android became a success could easily take a year’s worth of preparation.

SP

BlackBerry SDK is also based on Java. This may not be related as RIM may have formal licenses in place anyways and this seems to be more about the Dalvek runtime.
If it costs Google money to get out of this, they’ll either a) eat it if it’s one-time or b) start charging license fees for Android to cover the cost. Suddenly Android isn’t so attractive when you have to pay money for it (as a vendor). Alternatively they can move to a native app model (or develop their own language) but this will fracture the development model pretty badly.
Larry Ellison’s, CEO of Oracle’s close personal friend (indeed, the photographer at his wedding) is one Steve Jobs. Guess which of the big three mobile platforms (Android, BlackBerry, iPhone) does NOT use Java in any way?

medlaw

Additional point on SP’s comment about Google developing their own language. If I understand the situation correctly, Dalvik was intended by Google as an end-around Sun’s licensing restrictions on Java ME. Developers code Android apps in Java, which is then translated by Dalvik. Android doesn’t directly run java, but rather translates it to something else then runs it. I’m sure Google will contend this work around does not violate Sun’s patents. If Google wins that legal battle, game over for Oracle / Sun. If they lose, I think SP’s point about another language is the only way out. Google will have to mobilize an open source army to write a new java-like language that is truly write once, run anywhere AND completely open source. Then all the poor developers will have to convert their applications to the new language. Google will also have to pay a big chunk of money to Oracle as damages for all the Android devices already on the market. While this lawsuit drags out, the development community for Android is suppressed. The big winner–Apple.

Darwin

Not all of Android is open source. Never has been. Ask the companies who have been sued by Google for using all of the Android code for phones. Open source also typically means you can contribute to the source code which Google does not allow.
Also Google bought Android and improved it, they did not create it themselves.
Why I have to tell you this is beyond me but Kevin seems to be completely unaware of such things too.
Also what network neutrality “fight”? Google made it clear what they were really about which shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention. There was no fight.
Now other companies like Oracle have decided no free ride for Google. Good. Let the courts decide but I bet Oracle wins this one. Also I expect Apple will win the multi-touch lawsuit.

Stacey Higginbotham

Fair point on the intricacies of open source and licensing. On network neutrality Google has substantially changed its position even from its filing on the issue in January, which is surprising.

David

It actually seems like it’s you who hatse Google, and that attitude is quite frankly obnoxious.

Stacey Higginbotham

I don’t hate Google. I don’t hate Verizon. I own — and recommend my Android phone on Verizon to most people (HTC Incredible). I do think the companies’ proposal on net neutrality is problematic, but in many other areas you will hear me praise efforts and products by the two.

Kin

Why do you expect Google to fight the telecom companies? It’s very clear that there’s no incentives for any of the big tech firms to take on the telecom companies. Google tried, if for all their money and lobbying effort, they decided they would not win, net neutrality is finished.

Bob

More signs of Android success ? is Android doomed ? who will be next to sue ? IBM ?

dave lewis

Android is NOT Linux. Let me explain.

All Android apps and games run inside a crippled version of JVM that requires a crippled private fork of the Linux kernel.
Android offers NO benefit to the broader Linux ecosystem as a result of above actions. Dalvik VM can’t be ported to the mainline standard Linux kernel and with this patent infringement nobody would touch it with a 10 foot pole.
Android is not Open Source due to stolen patents and Google’s proprietary apps.

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