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24 January 2011, 11:38

Patent expert: Android code infringes Oracle's copyright

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Oracle Android Logo Things had gone quiet in the dispute between Oracle and Google about the alleged patent and copyright infringements in connection with the Android mobile operating system. Now, the founder of the NoSoftwarePatents campaign, Florian Mueller, has rekindled the issue. Mueller claims he has identified 43 files in which Google apparently copied Oracle's Java code without permission, in recent versions of the operating system (versions 2.2, 2.3).

When scrutinising the Android code, Mueller says that he found six files – in addition to the one already mentioned in Oracle's complaint – that are virtually identical with Oracle's Java code. A further 37 files apparently contain information stating that the code is owned by Sun. The original version of the class library, of which an edited version is included as exhibit J in Oracle's complaint, was apparently also marked "Proprietary/Confidential" and contains a request not to distribute the files, Mueller writes in a detailed blog posting.

When taking over Sun about a year ago, Oracle acquired the rights to the Java programming language and, last August, took Google to court over alleged patent and copyright infringements in the Java code of the Dalvik Virtual Machine, which is part of Google's Android operating system. At the end of October 2010, Oracle substantiated its claim, pointing out the code segments that Google allegedly copied line by line. The company claims that almost a third of the Android APIs are derivatives of Oracle's Java APIs.

Mueller wrote that no matter what Google says, the copyright notices are anything but a permission to relicense the Java code under the Apache Software Licence. The Apache Software Licence is used for the Android system, while Oracle offers Java under the GPLv2 (GNU General Public License). Mueller's arguments have been countered by Ed Burnette, a well-known Java developer and blogger with US news site ZDNet. After examining the files mentioned by Mueller, Burnette pointed out that these files contain test code that isn't shipped with any devices. Google apparently already removed some of these files at the end of October 2010 and the rest of them earlier this month.

Mueller responded to this criticism in a follow-up blog posting which looked at whether the code in question had been redistributed by device vendors. He found that Samsung, Motorola and LG all had elements of the code in the open source redistributions of the Android code that they released.

Whether the code was removed or not would not have an impact on the alleged copyright infringement claim. The legal case is due to appear before the courts in October. Should the US court find that Google has indeed violated Oracle's rights this could, for example, allow Oracle to start charging royalties for every Android device.


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