Oracle's First Big Move With Sun? Use Sun's Patents To Sue Google

from the real-companies-innovate,-not-litigate dept

Over the past few years, Sun has been one of the more outspoken companies against abusing the patent system, with former CEO Jonathan Schwartz explaining that real companies innovate, not litigate. However, Sun and its patents are now owned by Oracle, and apparently Larry Ellison feels otherwise. Oracle is now suing Google for patent infringement, using a bunch of patents that Sun owns around Java, claiming that Google’s Android implementation of Java is done without a license. This is a bit surprising, really, as big Silicon Valley tech companies don’t often get into patent battles with each other — and, historically, when they do launch such patent attacks, it’s usually a sign of something bigger being wrong with the company. Anyway, if you’re interested, the patents in question are 6,125,447, 6,192,476, 5,966,702, 7,426,720, RE38,104, 6,910,205 and 6,061,520. And here’s the filing:

Interesting to see super lawyer David Boies on this one. His career really has gone downhill, hasn’t it? From once leading the government’s antitrust case against Microsoft to representing SCO’s ridiculous lawsuits and now being involved in yet another silly patent fight?

Either way it will be interesting to see Google’s response. Unlike many big tech companies, Google hasn’t warehoused patents at quite the same rate. The company certainly does regularly apply for and get patents, but if you watch the numbers, they’re much lower than other tech companies, and I can’t recall Google ever making a patent claim against another company. So it’ll be interesting if Google responds with the standard response to a patent lawsuit between two big tech companies: which is to countersue over other patents, effectively launching the nuclear counterstrike. My guess is that the more likely response is that Google will eventually just pay off Oracle to make this lawsuit go away.

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Companies: google, oracle, sun

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Comments on “Oracle's First Big Move With Sun? Use Sun's Patents To Sue Google”

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Florian Mueller (user link) says:

Oracle's action raises serious questions, also about certain organizations

One thing I hope we’ll find out soon is whether Oracle would have been willing to do a license deal with Google on reasonable terms or not. So far there’s no indication that Oracle was constructive.

This also raises serious questions about the Open Invention Network, given that one of its licensees now sues another over a Linux distribution although the OIN claims to protect Linux against patents, and the OpenForum Europe, an open standards lobby organization. I raised those issues (and some related ones) in this blog posting.

Anonymous Coward says:

This follows a very common pattern IMHO. Oracle hasn’t innovated at all in the last decade or so, and now they are the first company in security issues according to security focus and loosing market position everyday against Microsoft and some open source projects. It absolutely makes sense for them to try to make some many with the lawyers.

Jimr (profile) says:

Future JAVA developement

This will make any business take second thoughts about attempting a commercial JAVA based product.

How the hell will a JAVA developer know when they are potentially infringing on a non-open sourced piece of code? Will a lawyer have to do a code review now?

The pretense of JAVA is that it open source (FREE). But now there are some exceptions. This will add another layer of risk to the development of JAVA – one many commerical business do not have the capital resources to fight Oracle over.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Future JAVA developement

While this move by Oracle is horrendous, it’s nothing a regular Java developer needs to worry about. (Android developers might be nervous, in the way off chance Oracle is able to scuttle the platform.)

The specific claims seem like the typical ridiculously general software patent claims–nothing Java specific at all. (Is inducement typically featured so heavily in these types of filings? Or is that just because we’re talking about a SDK?)

As I understand it, the main danger for Google is that they’re distributing a JVM (virtual machine) that is not a complete implementation of the Java specifications. I.e., it’s not *really* “Java” — which could potentially invalidate Sun’s fairly liberal license agreement. Sun wanted to make sure that no one else tried Microsoft’s embrace-extend-extinguish ploy that nearly killed Java in the early days. So… Oracle might have a leg to stand on here, however evil.

jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Future JAVA developement

Common misconception that Oracle is trying to exploit.

Google is not distributing a JVM (Java virtual machine). They are distributing a DVM (Dalvik virtual machine).

Google isn’t claiming that Dalvik is Java. Therefore they aren’t trying a Microsoft’s embrace-extend-extinguish ploy. Since Dalvik isn’t Java they didn’t have to write a complete implementation of the Java specifications. Google doesn’t have to worry about breaking a Google/Oracle Java licensing agreement because there isn’t a Google/Oracle Java licensing agreement and one wasn’t needed because they didn’t write a JVM nor are they claiming that they did.

Repeat after me: “Dalvik isn’t Java, Dalvik isn’t Java, Dalvik isn’t Java”

What Dalvik does is allow you to write programs using a Java syntax that gets compiled to Java byte codes using the Harmony project (Apache licensed). These Javaish program then get recompiled (the byte codes translated) into Dalvik byte codes. Dalvik is what runs on Android.

Therefore, unless they win based on bogus software patents (in my opinion all software patents are bogus), they don’t “.. have a leg to stand in here, however evil.”

jilocasin (profile) says:

Dumb on so many levels

This is just dumb. One more reason that software patents should have never been granted, but since they were, should be abolished as soon as possible.

Before we have the mistaken reference to the old Microsoft vs. Sun Java lawsuit, this isn’t anything like that. MS vs Sun was about MS breaking their license agreement and corrupting Java with MS Java that only ran well on Windows. Google vs Oracle is about Google making a non Java virtual machine (not a JVM) that translates Java byte codes to Dalvik byte codes, that run in their own virtual machine. You can write code in a Java like syntax (the language) and have it converted to Dalvik to run under Android.

They don’t call it Java, they don’t have a license agreement with Oracle about Java, and their Java to Dalvik converter is all Google code. The Java/Dalvik editor is based off of the Apache licensed Harmony project (which neither Sun, nor Oracle is very happy even exists).

So in the end it’s nothing like the Microsoft vs. Sun suit of yesteryear. It’s Oracle upset that Google has routed around their lucrative Java Mobile licensing by out developing them. If you were unaware, Sun’s official Java test suite comes with field of use restrictions that keep it limited to the desktop space. If you certified your open source Java JVM to comply, you can’t use it on servers or mobile devices (or anything else for that matter like TV set top boxes). For anything else you have to pay Oracle a license fee. It’s these field of use restrictions (among other reasons) that has kept the Harmony project from certifying their project as “Official Java”.

As for Boies and company, at least Oracle should be able to afford their legal bills, unlike new SCO.

Richard (profile) says:

Something wrong

First of all, this is the result of “defensive portfolios”.

Second, the signs are plentiful that something went horribly wrong inside Oracle after the Sun acquisition. Ellison publicly bashed Schwartz for everything under the sun

then went on about how to recoup those losses. I took that to mean that, the strategy they had planned with sun’s assets failed and that they have buyers remorse. Also, all of the rock star talent left after the acquisition and the O was left with lots of OSS and the third largest idea patent portfolio. I suppose this is how they plan to recoup that money. What a shame….

BTW: take a look at the ironic text showing up in the Google ad box:

“How To Patent Your Idea 3 Easy Steps To Patent & Make Money Get A Free Patent & Invention Kit”

Is this RJR’s business?

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

The stupidity of it all

Java is open source (or CC or something) and is free to use as long as the source code is released with the program that uses the Java code. Sun intentionally set it up this way. Sun also intentionally setup the mobile version of Java to not have this freedom. It allows mobile developers to create closed source programs using Java. Oracle is using this little technicality to sue Google even though Android is open source as well. I guess the way around that would be to use the full desktop version of Java. With the phones of today, there’s plenty of power to run it.

I read all this this morning on my Nexus 1.

Anonymous Coward says:

Good maybe now people get to their senses and stop using JAVA which is crap anyways.

C/C++, LUA and python are better alternatives in that order.


In 1997 Sun sued Microsoft over this same issue and apparently won that case.

In 2002 again Sun sued Microsoft over the same issue.

The issue being the use of non standard classes in JAVA(I think didn’t bother to read all the complaints and find those old fillings to confirm).

Mike42 (profile) says:

Totally crap-tastic!

I never liked Java, being a graphically-oriented Windows developer. Their feeble attempts at GUI’s made me sick. I did try my hand at it, though, but incomprehensibly-stupid rules like, “you can’t give your class the same name as a file in your project” made me drop the course.

I took to C# like a fish to water, though. Being designed by the creator of Turbo-Pascal, I found it to be very intelligently designed and easy to understand.

I was unhappy, however, that Microsoft was holding it so tightly. I looked at Mono, an open source implementation, and got excited. Then I read about how patent-encumbered Mono is, and how everyone who thinks about developing in a modern language should use Java(Blech) since it’s GPL’ed.

Then I read about this. I got excited because Google has the means to create it’s own open-source, patent-unencumbered language and platform. Then I read that they did: this isn’t Java, this is a Java-like language (C#, anyone?) which uses a Dalvik virtual machine.

I hope that Google can say to every patent, “No, we don’t do it that way.” I wish they would take Oracle to task on software patents, and have them abolished. But since it’s cheaper to just pay up than to do what’s right…

interval (profile) says:

Re: Totally crap-tastic!

@Mike42: “I got excited because Google has the means to create it’s own open-source, patent-unencumbered language and platform.”

AND Platform??? NO. No no no no no no. No more platforms. The whole point behind Java was to get away from platform dependencies. Also one of the reasons behind Sun’s loose licensing of Java, so that developers could start creating applications that were not so encumbered by the jungle of licensing that cripples the C#/Mono crowd. Java has a lot of things I like, as for the gui complaint, take a look at the initial version of Azureus (not the crapware current version) and get back to me. The interface is sheer joy to use. No, it wasn’t the gui, nor was it the class name restriction (hardly a real issue), and I don’t even mind the lack of multiple inheritance (that is really dumb in my opinion), the problem with Java is Microsoft’s jealous rage that it didn’t invent it first and its successful attempts to dilute it back in the late 90’s. That and McNealy’s lack of vision for Sun left its spectacular portfolio of intellectual property to rot away in the “sun” (as it were).

Sun was a great company. Now its been hijacked by a shark of a database vendor, a database no one really needs to use but they do anyway, and here we are. Doing Larry’s lawsuit limbo. Its a real shame.

Griff (profile) says:

Re: Totally crap-tastic!

— I never liked Java —

— I took to C# like a fish to water, though. —

WTF ? C# is almost identical to Java, a carbon copy.

— Being designed by the creator of Turbo-Pascal, I found it to be very intelligently designed and easy to understand. —

Odd use of grammar here. You were designed by the creator of Turbo-Pascal ? Didn’t your parents have a say ?

Or did you mean C# was designed by the creator of Turbo Pascal ? (“designed” in this case meaning “plagiarised”.

jilocasin (profile) says:

Re: Think less C# more like J#

As I understand it, an apt analogy would be:
J# to .Net is like
Java to Dalvik

In J# you are writing in a Javaish language with .Net classes/additions and the result gets translated to .Net byte codes run under the .Net VM.

In the Dalvik case you are writing in a Javaish language with some Dalvik classes/additions and the result gets translated (through Java byte codes) into Dalvik byte codes run under the DVM.

Instead of writing J# using Visual Studio (or a text editor) you are writing Harmony Java in Eclipse (or a text editor).

It’s a lot closer to writing Java than to writing C#, even though C# is remarkably close to Java syntax wise. Both J# and Dalvik serve the same purpose, to leverage the Java coding skills of developers to write code that runs under the .Net VM or the Dalvik VM respectively. Admittedly using Eclipse and Harmony is more Java like than using Visual Studio, but at the end of the day it’s basically the same thing.

vivaelamor (profile) says:

Re: Totally crap-tastic!

“I was unhappy, however, that Microsoft was holding it so tightly. I looked at Mono, an open source implementation, and got excited. Then I read about how patent-encumbered Mono is, and how everyone who thinks about developing in a modern language should use Java(Blech) since it’s GPL’ed. “

Why not use Python? Seems like you’d get the best of both worlds. It is object orientated if you want it and a completely open language that is fun to use. You can even use it for phone dev on the Maemo/Meego platforms (though it is not officially supported).

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

It'll be interesting

Aside from the, or perhaps part of, the ethics of all of this is that if Oracle didn’t make a good faith attempt at licensing before launching this IED then I suspect a court may look at this with some hostility.

You’re supposed to make that attempt, or some attempt, to resolve the issue without launching this kind of suit. You don’t go to court first.

Google buckling under because it costs less wouldn’t be a good thing but then again they sold their soul as they sold the rest of us out when they released their cozy deal with Verizon so anything is possible now from the former “do no evil” company.

Anonymous Coward says:

“His career really has gone downhill, hasn’t it? From once leading the government’s antitrust case against Microsoft to representing SCO’s ridiculous lawsuits and now being involved in yet another silly patent fight?”

I hope this was tongue in cheek. The guy started his own firm, which gets hired to work the biggest litigation cases around.

Anyway, interesting to note that Michael Jacobs of MoFo, who represented Novell *against* SCO and Boies Schiller, is now joining forces with Boies on this suit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Java sucks anyway. Never liked it. You have to write a mile long text just to print “Hello World!”. And on top of that, you need to compile it every time you want to test something…I was better off with C.

That’s why I am totally sold to Python now. It is stupidly easy to use and has a ton of modules to do pretty much anything. If you just want to make a program that works in 10 minutes, Python is the best thing ever.

The bad part is that it is crap slow on number crunching, but you can always use a little C code to speed things up (my most favorite thing about Python), or use modules like numpy for the heavy-duty stuff.

Richard Corsale (profile) says:

What are they thinking?

Oracle had a fight on their hands, just to bring Java back from the brink of obsolescence. I’ve been working with Java since it was OAK. I can tell you, it’s fallen behind in recent years and that’s mostly due to bureaucracy and backwards compatibility issues. However, lack of openness probably hurt it the most. Oracle was the chief opponent to Sun’s veto power in the Java Community Process. Oracle used to whine about the patent problem, that Sun held patents and they could just sue anyone if they wanted to. Also they kvetched about how Sun hadn’t given the Apache Licensed Harmony project approval. So THIS is what Oracle dose the second they got the reigns??? What a pity, Java will certainly suffer further reputive harm by this action. Reforming the “Java Sucks” popular image (perpetuated by the ignorant), was a battle in it’s self. Google was a key ally in that fight. It was GOOGLE that’s kept Java relevant to the startup, definitely not the software. What a bone headed move Oracle.

Anonymous Coward says:

Now I know everything

After reading this thread, it has become quite clear to me why we’re in the state we’re at. Java is one of the few things that is, truly, platform neutral. Almost all other programming (and scripting) languages must be ported or tweaked, even between different versions of the same operating system. If you have to write 1000 lines of code to say “Hello, World” you don’t know how to program and you should probably get a job shoveling up behind elephants at the zoo. It takes less than 80 lines to write that in COBOL, which is the most wordy language I have ever seen. Furthermore, if you can’t follow rules or understand the idea of how an object is created, shared, destroyed, or reused (in ANY language) then you shouldn’t be in this business either.

Software patents are a stupid thing. If I patent a program that uses a bubble sort, does that mean nobody else can ever use one? If my patented ERP system prints checks, will I be able to sue you if yours does? Where do we draw the line? Clearly, there is no true solution.

If Google did, indeed, violate the terms of licensing, Oracle has every right to sue, and they should, for the same reason Sun sued Microsoft. If Jilocasin is reporting correct facts (I did not research this) then reverse engineering or decompiling is, in fact, violation of the terms of use for the Java platform in addition to the scope of use clause. Oh, I smell many rats here.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Now I know everything

“If you have to write 1000 lines of code to say “Hello, World” you don’t know how to program and you should probably get a job shoveling up behind elephants at the zoo.”

Oh yeah? Let’s compare “Hello World!”s:


class Something {
public static void main(String[] args) {
System.out.println(“Hello World!”);

Done. Oh right, I still need to compile it. And now run it. There you go, it printed “Hello World!”.


print “Hello World!”

There you go. That’s it. You can make a script with that and run it or just pop it into the Python shell. Either way, same result.

By the time you finish writing hello world in Java, I already have a user interface set up in Python that runs in Windows, Linux and Mac with native look and feel (not some random one that my crappy toolkit decided on using).

If I want speed on Python, I can use Cython, Psyco or (if I am a nut, which I am) make a Python class/module/whatever in C and get the ease of use of Python plus the speed of C.

Watch out Java boy. In the future, YOU are the one that might end up shoveling elephant crap if you continue to cling so hard to your obsolete (soon to be patent bloated) language.

Ken Keenan (profile) says:

Dangerous game

This could come back to bite Oracle.

Oracle’s flagship product is their relational database, the first version of which they shipped in 1979. However, the bulk of the patents on relational database technology were held by IBM; if IBM had chosen to be dicks about it, they could have squashed the nascent Oracle like a bug.

Fast forward 30 years and the biggest player in the Java space after Sun is… IBM (in fact, IBM has probably made more money out of Java than Sun ever have). Given the size of IBM’s patent portfolio and if they got spooked about the potentially chilling effect on the Java ecosystem that this litigation might have, they could make things very uncomfortable for Oracle.

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