Google calls Oracle suit an 'attack' on open-source Java community

Google vowed it will fight a lawsuit filed by software giant Oracle Corp. alleging the Android mobile operating system infringes on intellectual property related to the Java programming language, acquired by Oracle in April 2009 when it purchased rival Sun Microsystems for about $7.4 billion. In the complaint, filed last week in a California federal court, Oracle contends the Android OS infringes on seven Java patents and copyrights: "Google has been aware of Sun's patent portfolio, including the patents at issue, since the middle of this decade, when Google hired certain former Sun Java engineers," Oracle said in the complaint, which also claims that Android developers have been making unlicensed use of Java copyrights. The complaint asks for unspecified damages, and argues that any Android-based software determined to be in violation of Oracle's copyrights should be "impounded and destroyed."

The Oracle complaint states that the Java platform has attracted more than 6.5 million software developers. "One of the most important technologies Oracle acquired with Sun was the Java platform," the filing notes. Prior to the Oracle acquisition, Sun released a series of key elements of the Java code via open-source license in hopes of boosting developer interest.  

Google defended the Android platform against Oracle's charges. "We are disappointed Oracle has chosen to attack both Google and the open-source Java community with this baseless lawsuit," the digital services kingpin said in an email. "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."

Many industry onlookers expressed surprise over the suit. "Java is essential for Android," IDC analyst Al Hilwa told The San Jose Mercury News, adding that "since Android has been out there for more than a year, most people would have expected they were in compliance with whatever license terms apply." Based on similar disputes, Hilwa said it's likely Oracle and Google have been quietly negotiating for months: "Going public with a lawsuit may well be part of a strategy by Oracle for trying to force the issue," he said.

James Gosling, considered the father of Java programming language, suggests on his blog that the Oracle lawsuit was inevitable. "During the integration meetings between Sun and Oracle where we were being grilled about the patent situation between Sun and Google, we could see the Oracle lawyer's eyes sparkle," Gosling writes. "Filing patent suits was never in Sun's genetic code. Alas..." Gosling left Sun in April 2010, roughly a year after the Oracle acquisition--upon his exit, he wrote on his blog "Just about anything I could say that would be accurate and honest would do more harm than good."

Google's Android platform now represents 17.2 percent of the global smartphone market, overtaking Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS as the world's third most popular smartphone OS and edging past Research In Motion's (NASDAQ:RIMM) BlackBerry to emerge as the top-selling OS in the U.S., according to new data published by research firm Gartner. Worldwide sales of Android-powered devices topped 10.6 million in the second quarter of 2010, up from just 756,000 a year ago, at which time Android made up only 1.8 percent of the global smartphone market. Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said sales of Android smartphones now total about 200,000 each day.

For more on Google's response to the Oracle lawsuit:
- read this TechCrunch article

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