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16 August 2010, 12:25

Google calls Oracle's lawsuit an attack on open source Java

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Google has responded to Oracle's lawsuit alleging patent and copyright infringements in Google's Android operation system and specifically in its Dalvik VM; "We are disappointed Oracle has chosen to attack both Google and the open-source Java community with this baseless lawsuit" said a Google spokesperson. The company also pledged to "strongly defend open-source standards" and to "continue to work with the industry to developer the Android platform.

Father of Java, James Gosling, calls the Oracle's patent and copyright lawsuit "Not a big surprise". In a posting on his blog entitled "The shit finally hits the fan", Gosling says that in meetings between Sun and Oracle during the acquisition "we were being grilled about the patent situation between Sun and Google, we could see the Oracle lawyer's eyes sparkle". Gosling says that filing patent suits was never "in Sun's genetic code". He added that he hopes not to be dragged into the dispute; only one of his patents, RE38,104 is included in the case.

In a later posting, Gosling recounted Sun's early patent battles with IBM and the problems around Java interoperability and how Sun wanted some compensation from Google for Android, as Google was "planning on revenue from advertising, but mostly they wanted to disrupt Apple's trajectory and Apple's expected entry into advertising". Gosling also notes that "This skirmish isn't much about patents or principles or programming languages. The suit is far more about ego, money and power".

No Software Patents founder and activist, Florian Mueller, concurred with Google's perception of this being an attack on open source Java. In his blog he describes Oracle's suit as "a patent attack on free software and open source". Mueller says that this is a big failure of the Open Invention Network, whose licensees include Oracle and Google, because of the limited scope of the OIN. He criticises free software and open source advocates who supported Oracle's acquisition of Sun asking "Will the SFLC and the Public Patent Foundation now lend pro-bono legal support to Google in order to get those Java patents invalidated before they do more damage?".

Charles Nutter, the man behind JRuby and, like Gosling, a former Sun employee, was less downbeat about the scope of who and what the patent problem affected. In a detailed blog posting which examines the history of Java and Android development and the patents involved, he says that "If you're a non-Android Java developer...don't lose sleep over this".

Explaining that "nothing in this suit would apply to any of the three mainstream JVMs that 99% of the world's Java runs on. Hotspot and JRockit are both owned by Oracle, and J9 is subject to the Java specification's patent grant for compliant implementations" he adds that "The lesson here is that Android is the first Java-like environment since Microsoft's J++ to attempt to unilaterally subset or superset the platform".


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