Wednesday, 18 April 2012 13:16

Google: Oracle wants to profit from Android's success

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Google yesterday began its defence in the case brought against it by Oracle which alleges that the search giant has built its Android system using patents and copyrighted code present in Java.

Oracle took ownership of Java when it completed its acquisition of Sun Microsystems in January 2010. Google has built a virtual machine called Dalvik for use in Android. The case concerns itself with application programming interfaces (corrected); Oracle claims that Google needed to take out a licence and pay royalties for its alleged use of Java code.

While Google admitted on the second day of the case, yesterday, that it had used nine lines of code from Java, the company characterised this as a mistake and an inconsequential one at that.

It accused Oracle of wanting to capitalise on the success of Android which now powers around 300 million smartphones and tablets.

Google has taken the position that it needs no Java licence because neither the Java language nor its application programming interfaces represent intellectual property that is protectable under the law.

Oracle chief Larry Ellison, during testimony yesterday, admitted that his company had considered buying either Research in Motion or Palm, shortly before it finalised the deal with Sun, in order to develop a smartphone, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

He also admitted making a proposal to Google co-founder Larry Page and chief executive Eric Schmidt in 2010 about the use of some Java components in Android. Google turned down the proposal and the Oracle lawsuit was filed soon thereafter.

Since the case was filed in August 2010, five of the seven patents Oracle claimed were being violated have been overturned by the USPTO; Oracle is now claiming damages for violation of its copyright on APIs and the Java language.


Oracle used the first day of the case to present to the court its case which included a number of internal emails exchanged between Google executives.

One, from Google engineer Tim Lindholm to Andy Rubin, Google vice-president in charge of Android, dated August 6, 2010, read: "What we've actually been asked to do (by Larry and Sergei) is to investigate what technical alternatives exist to Java for Android and Chrome. We've been over a bunch of these, and think they all suck. We conclude that we need to negotiate a license (sic) for Java under the terms we need."

This is an email which Google's lawyers at Keker & Van Nest fought to keep out of evidence but which US District Judge William Alsup of the San Francisco federal court ruled would stay on the public record.

Also presented was an email from Rubin to Google co-founder Larry Page on October 11, 2005, which read: "If Sun doesn't want to work with us, we have two options: 1) Abandon our work and adopt MSFT CLR VM and C# language -or - 2) Do Java anyway and defend our decision, perhaps making enemies along the way."

A third email made public was from Rubin to Google chief Eric Schmidt dated May 11, 2007 which read, in part: "I don't see how we can work together and not have it revert to arguments of control. I'm done with Sun (tail between my legs, you were right). They won't be happy when we release our stuff, but now we have a huge alignment with industry, and they are just beginning."

Oracle pointed out that part of Google's Android mobile strategy said that Android's technology could be used to embed Google into the fastest growing global consumer product, 675 million mobile phones, compared to 178 million PCs worldwide. The figures were for 2004.

On October 11, 2005, Rubin wrote to Page, saying in part: "Android is building a Java OS. We are making Java central to our solution because a) Java, as a programming language, has some advantages because it's the #1 choice for mobile development b) There exists documentation and tools c) carriers require managed code d) Java has a suitable security framework."

And it also presented part of a Google presentation headlined "Supporting Java is the best way to harness developers". The text below read, in part: "Fact...6M Java developers worldwide. Tools and documentation exist to support app development without the need to create a large developer services organization. There exist many legacy Java applications. The wireless industry has adopted Java, and the carriers require its support. Strategy: Leverage Java for its existing base of developers."

Oracle contends that Google copied Java API designs into Android APIs; based Android class libraries on Java API designs; and copied from Java code into Android code.

Oracle initially claimed billions in damages but these claims have been whittled down by the court.

The case continues today.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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