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Al Williams

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Oracle Claims Android Infringes Java Patents

August 13, 2010

If you wondered what Oracle was planning on doing with Sun's golden nuggets, you can stop wondering. Blogs and news sites everywhere are buzzing about Oracle's suit against Google filed yesterday in Federal court. Oracle claims that the Android platform violates Java-related patents it acquired when it bought Sun.

I have mixed feelings about software patents in general, but putting that aside for a moment, I can't help but think this could have a chilling effect on new platforms adopting Java. After all, if Google is infringing, I can't imagine a lot of the other Java-like systems (both commercial and open source) are also infringing. And if Google can't figure out how to legally use Java, what chance do I have? Even if I do figure it out, a company like Oracle can litigate me out of business even if I'm in the right.

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I'm not a patent attorney so I don't know much about defending against such a suit. I know for copyright and trademark infringement, you have to show you were actively defending your property. For example, when Xerox sued Apple (which was a copyright case, mind you), analysts said the Xerox position was weak because it had been aware of the infringement for many years before taking action. The case was dismissed, although I'm not sure how much the delay in pursuing it was a factor in that dismissal.

If Oracle clamps down on the the "Java Community" it might find itself owning something as relevant as the Microchannel bus -- a technically advanced bus for PC systems, that IBM closed off and then watched as everyone else went off to develop other more open card types leaving Microchannel an almost forgotten relic.

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