updated 10:30 pm EDT, Thu August 12, 2010
Oracle could freeze Android in Google lawsuit
Oracle tonight sued Google for allegedly infringing on seven patents as well as copyrights relating to Java. The software pioneer claimed that Google had ignored Sun's patent portfolio since the middle of last decade and had even hired parts of Sun's Java team in the years before Oracle's buyout of Sun last year. The patent fringing was allegedly damaging as Android was competing directly with Java as a phone platform, whether for apps or the OS itself.
The suit calls for an unmentioned amount of damages and would also force Google to have any violating software "impounded and destroyed."
Google hasn't had an opportunity to review the lawsuit and offer its response. Whether Oracle can press its suit is also unclear; Sun open-sourced Java in 2006 and may have effectively passed on a valid license to Google by extension.
Such lawsuits seldom reach their final conclusion and are often meant as pressure tactics to obtain royalties or a one-time settlement payout. Google is unlikely to willingly risk the future of Android in a lawsuit. However, any truce with Oracle could lead to significantly increased costs for developing Android and could threaten its profitability.
Google chief Eric Schmidt has said that ad revenues from mobile searches already make Android profitable and has said it could recoup costs quickly with subscriptions, but without any licensing fees it doesn't make any revenue directly.
Java is frequently used in the mobile world, including in the BlackBerry platform and Qualcomm's BREW. One of the few to be immune is Apple, which doesn't use Java apps and rejects the use of such code in App Store titles. Google uses it heavily for apps and other components of Android.
- Jon Fingas