back to article Larry vs Larry: Oracle and Google in courtroom smackdown

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 " …


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  1. Asgard

    Larry Ellison continues to behave like a billionare version of a bully.

    I'm not a fan of Google at times but I really hope Oracle fail in this case, because this is going to be really bad news for everyone if Oracle win. Larry Ellison must be short of money, oh wait, he's got an estimated $36 billion as of 2012 yet the aggressive bastard still wants more and is prepared to fuck over everyone if he can to get more.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: Larry Ellison continues to behave like a billionare version of a bully.

      How do you think it will be bad for everyone?

      First, it means Google shells out $$$$ money that they owe. If you're a shareholder of Google, it will suck.

      Second, it means bad news for the phone manufacturers because they will have to cough up $$ and then go back to Google for re-reimbursement.

      For the consumer... no change.

      As much as I hate Larry, I have to say that the law is in their favor on this one.

      Its actually better for all of us if the courts do agree and uphold IP rights.

  2. SoaG

    Larry vs. Larry?

    What happened to Darryl and Darryl?

    1. ItsNotMe

      Re: Larry vs. Larry?

      "What happened to Darryl and Darryl?"

      Their other brother Darryl is out of town, and doesn't want to be a part of this.

  3. g e

    Is Java free, though?

    I know we all think it is but is it actually in writing from SUN anywhere as it would seem moronic for Oracle to even bring the case otherwise.

    Presumably the Java 'License' has some anti-free wordage which Oracle are basing this on or something else sneaky, nasty and tricksy like those Hobbitses.

    1. Asgard

      Re: Is Java free, though? ... tricksy like those Hobbitses...

      I'm sure if the dark lord Ellison got his way, he would want: "One Patent to rule them all, One Patent to find them, One Patent to bring them all, And in the darkness bind them."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is Java free, though?

      Java SE was open sourced, so Google is right, Java is free, except they forget to mention that it has a field of use restriction that says it can't be use in mobile devices. Of course they wouldn't mention that because they clearly violate that restriction.

      I don't see how Google can win this, especially with those damning internal emails showing that Google knew what they were doing was wrong but did it anyway.

      1. Rabbers

        Re: Is Java free, though?

        I would presume that Google would suggest that Oracle's interpretation is counter to the intention of the original license. I always thought that the SE license was to stop developers from trying to use SE on weak mobile devices because Mobile edition was available for these classes of device. I'm sure that the original designers never considered that mobile devices like phones could ever run the SE variant as well as they do.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Down

        Re: Is Java free, though?

        The problem with the parent statement is the assumption that google used either the Sun/oacle JDk or openJDK in Android. They did'nt - they clean-room developed their own Java virtual machine (called Dalvik) and used the Apache Harmony project for the runtime libraries. Harmony *is not* tied by the Field of Use restriction since it was never certified as a Java implementation (Sun refused to let Apache have the necessary test suite).

        1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

          @alannorthhants Re: Is Java free, though?

          First, Java isn't free when it comes to mobile devices.

          Google knows this and e-mails released to the public show this.

          Second... the 'clean room' version wasn't so 'clean'.

          Also shown in court documents.

          The judge wanted these two to come to a settlement through mediation because in the end its a question as to how much Google is going to pay and how much Oracle is willing to settle to accept.

          If it goes the distance, Google is going to get a black eye.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @alannorthhants Is Java free, though?

            It is irrelevant that Java SE isn't free on mobile devices. Dalvik isn't Java SE, it is a new implementation.

            About the version being not so clean, only irrelevant test files were found to be copies, and those were removed.

            1. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

              @AC Re: @alannorthhants Is Java free, though?

              "It is irrelevant that Java SE isn't free on mobile devices. Dalvik isn't Java SE, it is a new implementation."

              One of the assertions by Oracle is that Dalvik isn't a clean 'clean room' release. Its a derivative product based on Oracle's IP which they acquired from Sun.

              To your point that 'only irrelevant test files were found to be copies and subsequently removed...

              It doesn't matter. Its all the smoking gun required by Oracle to suggest that the clean room wasn't so clean. And that's the point. A clean room implementation has to be completely clean. You toss the specs over the wall and that's all the clean room team has to work with. If the specs are incomplete, tough.

              There's more to this case that is sitting in discovery that neither you nor I will ever see until those details are made public. Based on what has been released, its not a slam dunk in either direction, however there's enough evidence to say that Google isn't safe on this and if it goes to trial there is substantial risk of Oracle winning. And that's not to suggest that Oracle will win at trial.

              This smoking gun is very damaging to Google.

      3. Paul Shirley

        Re: field of use restriction

        Not only is Harmony not licensed as a Java implementation, Google have actively fulfilled the only restriction Sun actually made on non-licensed versions, that they don't call it Java. That's why there are no contractual infringement claims in the case, you can't hit non parties with contract claims.

        Oracle have had to rewrite copyright law to make any sort of case (they really should have seen the patent suicide coming) and they've done it in a way that even if they were 100% correct and justified, the claims must fail or risk massive collateral damage to the entire software industry.

        One reason US software copyright law seems so perverse and unfair is that the consequences of being more like traditional fields (literature, film etc) would be crippling to the industry. Google walked right on the edge of what's legal, don't expect massive penalties if they overstepped. Oracle need to redefine the law or they can't win enough to bother. If Oracle big we *all* lose.

      4. Tom 35 Silver badge

        What is a mobile device?

        A laptop? A netbook? A 10 year old tablet running windows xp tablet?

        No one got in trouble for them being "mobile".

        So how is a 10" Android tablet a mobile device and a 10 year old xp tablet not.

        It's one thing when your talking about a Moto Razer with it's crappy Java golf game, But today's phones are more capable then a lot of desktop computers from the time that restriction was made.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oracle insisted on a jury trial

    To me, this means: "Normally, we should get skewered, but juries take pretty random decisions, so we stand a chance".

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      R.I.P. Johnny Cochran

      "If Chewbacca lives on Endor then Oracle must be right"

    2. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

      Re: Oracle insisted on a jury trial


      Its a good thing you don't know law or lawyers.

      In a case like this... it means that Oracle thinks that they have a pretty solid case. What they want is a jury to give them $$$$ in damages and then more money in punitive damages.

  5. elsonroa

    What if Oracle choose to sue for GPL violation?

    I mean, Sun/Oracle did release the source code under GPL. So if they were to claim that Google's alleged copyright infringement actions were in breach of that license, would we finally see the GPL tested in court with the FSF arguing that their own license is invalid? And would this create a singularity in the American legal system, causing the whole thing to implode?

    Joke icon - because someone, somewhere would otherwise mistake this for a serious legal opinion!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What if Oracle choose to sue for GPL violation?

      Your question is a valid one. You're missing the fact not all parts of Java were released under GPL license. A small (but important) set of them remained proprietary and this is where Oracles tries to stab.

  6. bobbles31

    I think that the case is not based on the dispute that Java is free or not. It is based on the principle that Google have forked the Java source with no intention of returning their changes as a contribution to the ongoing Java effort. Effectively creating two Javas, Sun's and Googles.

    Iirc the license allows for the forking of the code for personal use but not for ongoing commercial distribution as competing platform.

    Effectively, oracles Own IP is being used as the basis for a competing product which oracle are saying is against the terms of the license under which the source code is made available.

    1. Mark Honman

      Not forked, re-implemented

      More accurately, the re-implementation is Apache's Harmony.

      Re-implementation of Java is OK but you can't call it Java (see famous Sun-MS lawsuit).

      Nicking other people's source code is wrong - and Oracle did find some test subsystem code that was present in Android distributions. That was removed as soon as it was brought to the Android people's attention, leaving the copyright focus of this case to be the Java API.

      By definition a re-implemented API is going to look *very* much like the original (think SysV vs. BSD Unix header files) and it's hard to tell how much may have been copied vs. how much just has to be the same for that API to be useful.

      Up til now nobody has thought it worthwhile to sue over APIs, so the rights and wrongs are not clearly established, but every dev who has worked on multiple platforms has probably seen the same basic API ingredients rehashed on each one - so probably not much hope for Oracle except where the APIs in question are uniquely Java-ish and not derived from something else.

      Something like the time Apple sued Microsoft and HP over the appearance of Windows 3.1/NewWave - and got off on the basis that Apple had themselves based their UI on Xerox's work.

  7. Chris Miller

    I confidently predict

    A clear win for the lawyers, kerching!

  8. Carl

    Um not so fast has done a fine job of covering this so far and it would appear that "one beeeelion dollars" is not going to get paid over. Not even close.

    Of the N patents/copyrights Oracle were waving around it seems some 80% of them got the kybosh after re-examination by the US patent office *so far*.

    Their "damages expert" seems to have been discredited and for good measure Sun's documented, rather more sympathetic position towards Android has undermined Oracle's mock outrage.

    So its all to fight for. My money is on Oracle's case against Android going the save way SCO's did (against Linux). Nowhere.

    But don't listen to me. Have a look at They document all the sources as well as providing editorial.

  9. P. Lee Silver badge


    I doubt they would get what they are asking for even if Oracle win.

    Google won't license, they'll redesign, so it will be a one-off payment. Will anyone want to go near Java after that? Ahem, excuse me sir, that java applet you wrote appears to be able to run on this laptop. You owe me One Beeellion Dollars.

    And is a Transformer a laptop or a tablet or are both mobile devices? Is a tablet just a large phone?

    Wait, did you carry that desktop around from the other side of the office? That would mean its mobile...

  10. stanimir

    I'd have been w/ google in this case, except what they did is truly lame.

    They broke java binary compatibility and class format, so in the end it's not java but some google format.

    In the end Andorid aint java but it's called so.

  11. Beaufin

    Good point P.Lee

    What is the exact definition of mobile?

  12. James 100

    Weak argument

    I don't like Sun/Oracle's "field of use" restrictions - surely, if I want to play Pong on a Cray or shoehorn Ubuntu onto an old 386, that's my problem, whether it works or not?

    Having said that, "it's freely available so you can't enforce copyright" is a really, really dumb argument. Will they be redistributing modified copies of the Windows 8 preview release? That's free, too, but I suspect Microsoft might just get all lawyered up about that idea! Even open-source/free-software doesn't mean you can do what you like regardless of licence - the FSF of all people should be on board with that distinction.

    I hate the idea of software patents and of trying to restrict use of a protocol or interface (look at the Linux kernel fiasco with BitKeeper?) - but it does look as if (a) the room wasn't quite 'clean' after all (Sun stuff slipping in) and (b) Sun/Oracle have patents which cover things Android does, at which point no clone, clean-room or not, is safe.

    With hindsight, and given their love of Java, maybe Google should have bought Sun themselves...

    1. stanimir

      Re: Weak argument

      Well, said. I still wonder how google didn't open the checkbook for Sun. Back in the day

      Oracle's acquisition of Sun left some bad taste in the Java developers.

  13. tslate

    What, who me?

    And Sun wouldn't have objected? Give me a break.... Just more open source fantasies.

  14. Tyson Key

    I've often wondered what would happen if Oracle won, and ended up requesting the recall and destruction of all "infringing" Android-based products.

    I doubt that would work in reality, though - since it's likely that many handsets have been lost, stolen, damaged, or privately resold; lots of people have copies of various versions of the Android SDK; and the source code has globally spread like kudzu. Not to mention that "real" people (i.e. consumers) will be unwilling to relinquish their devices.

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