The biggest IT trial to-date which will decide whether Google have infringed Oracle’s copyright and patents begins in San Francisco today.
Oracle are suing Google for $1 Billion.
Java, originally owned by Sun Micro Systems, which was taken over by Oracle in the 1990s provides for computer software to be run on different computer operating systems. Therefore, all intellectual property rights in Java belong to Oracle.
Java is used throughout the IT industry. Oracle are suing Google for using their IP in their Android phones and then giving it away for free which in causes problems for Oracle who wish to licence the IP rights to mobile phone makers.
Also, because Android is not fully compatible with Java it undermines the fundamental ‘write once, run anywhere’ premise of Java which is its main appeal.
Although Java language is free for anyone to use without a licence the Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) which enable developers to write Java compatible code is not free.
This would mean Google having to re -code its software or pay the relevant licence fee if it lost the case.
Google sais that “APIs are the glue that allows computer programs to talk to each other – in this case Android apps use them to access the phone’s features like its screen and memory, If Oracle wins the case and APIs are held to be copyrighted, then in theory, virtually every application – on Android, Mac OS, Windows, iPhone or any other platform – has to be at least re-released under new licence terms. This could result in many applications being withdrawn until their legality is resolved”.
Oracle stated that “The APIs represent years of creative design… and that other than a few classes, Google was not required to copy the selection, organisation, and structure of the APIs to be compatible with the Java programming language”.
Google are arguing the there should be no IP rights involved in the technology and that “without the APIs, the Java programming language is deaf, dumb and blind”.
An ex Sun Micro Systems employee said that “the lives of developers would be much more complex if Oracle win… and that complexity and confusion would return to a world where they have largely been expunged, bringing fear, uncertainty, and doubt back into open source software development.”
IPhone App developers have said that it would not be practical to go under the hood of each API to see if someone was going to sue you over using it.