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Oracle sues Google for Android Java use

[Update] Oracle has filed a complaint against Google for patent and copyright infringement related to Google’s Android smartphone operating system stack and related Java-based software.  Google has made wide use of the OpenJDK developer package to enable Java developers to quickly create Android applications, and has made inroads versus Java ME, a long-standing effort to place Java on small mobile devices.

As early as 2007, developers raised issues related to the Android’s use of a Java Developer Kit (JDK), which was said to target a non-standard JVM. The Android OS runs on a VM known as Dalvik virtual machine.

“In developing Android, Google knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property,” said Oracle spokesperson Karen Tillman in a statement. Oracle gained control of Java patents along with its purchase of Sun Microsystems. That purchase closed earlier this year.

Among the legal team filing the Oracle complaint is the firm of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, led by David Boies, noted for pleading the U.S. Government anti-trust case against Microsoft in the 1990s.

Google, in response to the Oracle filing, described the lawsuit as ‘baseless’ as well as an “attack on the open-source Java community.”

Test of Java portability
Interest in how Oracle would administer its Java franchise has been high since its purchase of Sun. Early comments on the Oracle suit at Java community site (and sister site) covered the gamut of Java opinion.

 “I think incompatible versions of Java [are] the last thing[s] Java developers need. Nothing would hinder Java ecosystem evolution/innovation worse than having to write application servers, frameworks, plug-ins, IDEs, tools, dynamic languages, etc that cannot rely on its underlying platform,” wrote independent developer and EJB expert Reza Rahman.

Wrote independent Android developer Ulf Dittmer: ”Android does not (and never did) claim to be Java. It offers a certain degree of source compatibility, but that’s about it. The lawsuit is not so much about the language as it is about patents Oracle owns on certain aspects of mobile technology.”

After a long gestation, Android has had increasing success in mobile markets that were long a target for Sun Microsystems’ Java ME platform. Many Mobile developers have moved away from mature Symbian, Windows Phone and Java ME platforms in recent years to support Android according to a recent report by research firm VisionMobile. The group’s Mobile Developer Economics 2010 and Beyond survey results suggest nearly 60 percent of all mobile developers recently developed on Android.

This could well turn into a long-running controversy pitting guaranteed portability of applications running on the Java VM versus efforts to alter JVMs for specific purposes. Just as surely, it pits two high-tech heavyweights against one another.


CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story described the Dalvik as a Java virtual machine. Its inventors describe it more simply as a virtual machine. It does, however, perform much as a Java virtual machine, with some differing implementation details.

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