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Oracle sues Google over Java in Android

Legal clash of the titans

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Oracle has mounted a no-holds-barred legal attack on Google's Android operating system in a lawsuit that accuses the internet giant of deliberately infringing patents and copyrights Oracle holds for the Java platform.

In a complaint filed late Thursday, Oracle asked a federal court in Northern California to seize all Android products and advertising, block the further infringement of its intellectual property, and force Google to pay hefty damages, including trebled patent damages because the alleged misappropriation was willful. The action was filed on behalf of Oracle subsidiary Oracle America, which obtained the Java rights with the acquisition of Sun Microsystems in January.

"Without consent, authorization, approval, or license, Google knowingly, willingly, and unlawfully copied, prepared, published, and distributed Oracle America's copyrighted work, portions thereof, or derivative works and continues to do so," Oracle attorneys, which include renowned litigator David Boies, wrote. "Google's Android infringes Oracle America's copyrights in Java and Google is not licensed to do so."

The unexpected move comes as sales of Android-based smartphones are surging, inching past iPhone buyers in the second quarter of this year and garnering a 27 per cent market share to the iPhone's 23 per cent. It follows a series of patent suits and countersuits filed by and against Apple over intellectual property for its handset.

The complaint asserts seven patents to various technologies associated with Java, in addition to copyrighted code, documentation, specifications, libraries, and other materials that comprise the platform. Attorneys said the intellectual property is infringed by various Java applications that make up the Android stack and run on a Java-based object-oriented application framework. They also cited core Android libraries that run on the Dalvik virtual machine, which features just-in-time compilation.

"On information and belief, Google has purposefully, actively, and voluntarily distributed Android and related applications, devices, platforms, and services with the expectation that they will be purchased, used or licensed by consumers in the Northern District of California," the complaint stated. "By purposefully and voluntarily distributing one or more of its infringing products and services, Google has injured Oracle America and is thus liable to Oracle America for infringement of the patents at issue in this litigation."

The legal broadside is in some ways reminiscent of the legal offensive Sun launched against Microsoft in 1997 over the same technology. The two companies spent the better part of a decade hashing out their disagreements, and many of the most explosive allegations — that Microsoft intentionally misappropriated Java to blunt its write-once-run-anywhere promise — were later incorporated into an antitrust lawsuit filed by the Justice Department and more than a dozen states.

Microsoft ultimately agreed to pay Sun $1bln to settle their disagreements after the judge hearing the antitrust case ruled that Microsoft was a monopolist that had acted illegally to preserve its dominant position.

The patents in the case are 6,125,447, "Protection domains to provide security in a computer system"; 6,192,476, "Controlling access to a resource"; 5,966,702, "Method and apparatus for pre-processing and packaging class files"; 7,426,720, "System and method for dynamic preloading of classes through memory space cloning of a master runtime system process"; RE38,104, "Method and apparatus for resolving data references in generated code"; 6,910,205, "Interpreting functions utilizing a hybrid of virtual and native machine instructions"; and 6,061,520, "Method and system for performing static initialization."

Google declined to comment. The complaint is here.

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