John Paczkowski

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Google Asks Court to Toss Oracle’s Android Lawsuit

Silicon Valley’s latest Goliath versus Goliath battle is officially on.

Google today responded to Oracle’s (ORCL) claims that its Android OS infringes copyrights and patents related to Java, which Oracle acquired as part of its purchase of Sun Microsystems earlier this year. This morning, the search sovereign filed an answer to Oracle’s suit, denying all seven of its patent-infringement charges, and asking that the company’s copyright-infringement claim be dismissed because Google (GOOG) feels it is “legally deficient.”

And, interestingly, the answer calls Oracle out as a hypocrite–a company that pushed for a fully open Java platform when the OS was owned by Sun, only to blatantly ignore the open source community’s requests to fully open source it after its acquisition of Sun closed.

“It’s disappointing that after years of supporting open source, Oracle turned around to attack not just Android, but the entire open source Java community with vague software patent claims,” the company said in a statement. “Open platforms like Android are essential to innovation, and we will continue to support the open source community to make the mobile experience better for consumers and developers alike.”

Google’s prayer for relief makes that disappointment quite clear. In it, the company asks not only for a judgment dismissing Oracle’s complaint against it with prejudice, but also for a judgment in favor of Google on all of its counterclaims; a declaration that Google has not infringed, contributed to the infringement of, or induced others to infringe, either directly or indirectly, any valid and enforceable claims of the Patents-in-Suit; a declaration that the Patents-in-Suit are invalid; a declaration that Oracle’s claims are barred by the doctrines of laches, equitable estoppel, and/or waiver; a declaration that the Oracle’s claims are barred by the doctrine of unclean hands; a declaration that this case is exceptional and an award to Google of its reasonable costs and expenses of litigation, including attorneys’ fees and expert witness fees; and such other and further relief as this Court may deem just and proper.

Here are three of the more pointed graphs from the answer, followed by a copy of the document in its entirety.

7. Sun came under significant criticism from members of the open source community, including Oracle Corp., for its refusal to fully open source Java. For example, in August of 2006, the Apache Software Foundation (“ASF”), a not-for-profit corporation that provides organizational, legal, and financial support for open source software projects, attempted to obtain a TCK from Sun to verify Apache Harmony’s compatibility with Java. Although Sun eventually offered to open source the TCK for Java SE, Sun included field of use (“FOU”) restrictions that limited the circumstances under which Apache Harmony users could use the software that the ASF created, such as preventing the TCK from being executed on mobile devices. In April of 2007, the ASF wrote an open letter to Sun asking for either a TCK license without FOU restrictions, or an explanation as to why Sun was “protect[ing] portions of Sun’s commercial Java business at the expense of ASF’s open software” and violating “Sun’s public promise that any Sun-led specification [such as Java] would be fully implementable and distributable as open source/free software.” However, Sun continued to refuse the ASF’s requests.

8. Oracle Corp., as a member of the Executive Committee (“EC”) of the Java Community Process (“JCP”), the organization tasked with managing Java standards, voiced the same concerns regarding Sun’s refusal to fully open source the Java platform. Later that year, in December of 2007, during a JCP EC meeting, Oracle Corp. proposed that the JCP should provide “a new, simplified IPR [intellectual property rights] Policy that permits the broadest number of implementations.” At that same meeting, BEA Systems – which at the time was in negotiations that resulted in Oracle Corp. purchasing BEA – proposed a resolution that TCK licenses would be “offered without field of use restrictions . . . enabling the TCK to be used by organizations including Apache.” Oracle Corp. voted in favor of the resolution.

9. Just over a year later, in February of 2009, Oracle Corp. reiterated its position on the open-source community’s expectation of a fully open Java platform when it supported a motion that “TCK licenses must not be used to discriminate against or restrict compatible implementations of Java specifications by including field of use restrictions on the tested implementations or otherwise. Licenses containing such limitations do not meet the requirements of the JSPA, the agreement under which the JCP operates, and violate the expectations of the Java community that JCP specs can be openly implemented.”

UPDATE: Oracle has issued this statement on Google’s answer.

“In developing Android, Google chose to use Java code without obtaining a license. Additionally, it modified the technology so it is not compliant with Java’s central design principle to ‘write once and run anywhere.’ Google’s infringement and fragmentation of Java code not only damages Oracle, it clearly harms consumers, developers and device manufacturers.”

UPDATE: Engadget’s Nilay Patel has a good analysis of Google’s strategy, here — as well as some potential holes in it.

2010.10.04 – Google Answer and Counterclaims _filed_

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