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Larry vs Larry: Oracle and Google in courtroom smackdown

Ellison's Java suit against Choc Factory goes to trial

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One of the big patent cases in tech will finally come to trial this week, as Oracle takes on Google in court over its use of Java software in its Android operating system.

Oracle laid hands on the Java platform when it bought Sun Microsystems in January 2010 and it had filed suit against Google under the new Sun moniker of "Oracle America" by August that year.

According to Oracle, the Chocolate Factory has infringed on its copyright by copying Java software and documentation into its Android software and documentation, as well as infringing on two patents with Android and related mobile phones.

Google has called the suit an "attack on both Google and the open-source Java community" and said the arguments are "baseless".

The web giant has said in court documents that Oracle has no right to enforce the copyright and patents in question against it because the Java programming language is free and open for anyone to use.

But Oracle doesn't agree and it is hoping the court will hand over around $1bn in damages at the end of the trial, expected to last around eight weeks.

Since the suit was first filed, Judge William Alsup has been trying to get the parties to settle and various negotiations have taken place. However, the parties were unable to agree on any deal before the set deadline of 13 April, so trial will begin today.

Both Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Google CEO Larry Page are on Oracle America's list of the first 10 witnesses it expects to call to the stand. Judge Alsup said that it was possible the case could get to the first witness on the first day of trial after opening statements.

As well as costing Google a whole heap of money, losing the case could force the firm to change its Android OS, which in turn will force app developers to rewrite existing products.

While Google could survive a billion-dollar payout and an Android redesign, the developers are the ones who stand to lose most, which has put open-source advocates firmly on Google's side.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) called the Oracle suit "unjustifiable".

"One of the great benefits of free software is that it allows programs to be combined in ways that none of the original developers would've anticipated, to create something new and exciting," said FSF licence compliance engineer Brett Smith after the suit was first filed.

"Oracle is signalling to the world that they intend to limit everyone's ability to do this with Java," he added. ®

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