[A2k] Wall Street Journal: Google, Oracle Head to Showdown
thiru at keionline.org
Mon Apr 16 06:52:26 PDT 2012
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• Updated April 15, 2012, 11:17 p.m. ET
Google, Oracle Head to Showdown
By JOHN LETZING and STEVEN D. JONES\
Many companies are tangling in court over mobile-phone technology these days, but the showdown between Oracle Corp. ORCL +0.71% and Google Inc. GOOG -2.50% has unusual dimensions—particularly the vastly different estimates of the money at stake.
Oracle, if victorious in court, is expected to press for an award of about $1 billion. Google, meanwhile, says potential total damages could be less than $100 million.
Another important element is the possibility that Oracle could persuade a federal judge to issue an injunction against Android, the Google software that has become the most widely used platform for smartphones.
The case centers on Oracle's allegations that Android mobile-phone software infringes patents and copyrights associated with the programming technology known as Java. Oracle obtained Java and related intellectual property through its 2010 purchase of Sun Microsystems, which developed Java in the 1990s.
The technology, which includes a programming language, is a widely used foundation for many software products.
Among the issues in the case is whether Google copied Java features in Android without paying Sun to license them.
"Google's management, at its very highest level, made the decision" to use Java in Android and not secure a license for the software, said David Boies, Oracle's lead attorney in the case, in a statement released Thursday. "Google is damaging the entire Java ecosystem" by not complying with licensing terms.
Oracle, a Redwood Shores, Calif., business-software giant, wants an injunction to force Google to acquire a Java license and either make Android fully compatible with the technology, or force Google to contribute its Java innovations to outside developers, Mr. Boies said.
Another point of potential interest in the case: Evidence presented may include the amount of revenue Google reaps from Android. That figure has been something of a mystery.
While Android is an open-source project provided free to device makers, it does help generate sales of mobile advertising and software apps.
Only two of the seven Sun patents originally asserted by Oracle in the case remain, however, as the other five were knocked out during pretrial action.
One of the two remaining patents was issued to Sun in 2000, and covers a way of condensing computer code. The other was won by Sun in 2003, when it was reissued a patent originally filed in December 1992. Given the 20-year life span of U.S. patents from the date of filing, that patent is due to expire at the end of this year. It covers a method of generating computer code.
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