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Gemalto leaps into anti-Android fray

Java as a little OS, we own that!

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Security chip maker Gemalto has launched its own attack on Android, claiming to own patents essential to the use of Java as a mobile OS.

The suit, filed in patent-friendly Texas, accuses Google, HTC, Motorola and Samsung of infringing Gemalto's patents which, according to the company, cover techniques essential to the use of a high-level language such as Java on a device with limited resources.

Gemalto claims it discovered - and patented - those techniques while developing JavaCard. JavaCard is a hugely successful operating system which runs on SIM and credit cards, enabling card developers to program in Java rather than the assembly code (or, at best, C), which they were previously required to learn.

Programming smart cards is arcane, but improved enormously in the 1990s as JavaCard became widely adopted and the industry braced itself for an explosion of applications embedded in SIM Cards. That explosion never happened, partly because network operators (who control the SIM) didn't want to pay for it, but also because even if it is programmed in Java, there's a limit to what a SIM can do.

But that didn't stop the industry spending a fortune working out how to squeeze Java into the chips in a credit card - and Gemalto has obviously realised (or been reminded) that Google is using similar techniques to get Android running.

Gemalto will have to join the lengthy sue-queue of those filing suits over Android. It looks like the long line should keep patent lawyers busy for the next decade at least. ®

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