Oracle vs Google: the latest battle in the courtsDale Wright
Yet another court case has kicked off among major tech companies, and for once, it doesn’t involve Apple.
The latest legal battle involves two of the biggest and most well-established companies in the technology industry: Oracle and Google. The outcome could be a very big deal for the smartphone industry, and could have significant implications for the future of Android.
Oracle claim that Google used 37 copyrighted elements and various patents relating to Java, a product which they now own after buying out Sun Microsystems two years ago. Oracle say Google programmers used these elements of Java in the development of the Android operating system without applying for a licence, and they say that this crucial Java code underpins the whole Android OS.
The case is significant because Google could be forced to reveal highly sensitive financial information about Android. If the company fails to win the case, Google could have to pay Oracle damages and ongoing royalties – a bill which could easily reach billions of dollars. If Google don’t pay up, they could, in theory, be forced to re-write Android from the ground up. That means they would need to remove any Java code.
The outcome will be decided of a jury in San Francisco made up of a broad range of US citizens, but it’s likely to be a highly technical case. According to the press, the jury members include a fashion designer, a postman, a nurse and a teacher. They will be asked to consider evidence from a stack of emails sent between Google staff confirming that Java was used without an agreement and no alternative could be found at the time. According to analysts, this was partly because so many programmers already knew Java and could develop applications for Android easily, but Google gave up on trying to negotiate a deal with Sun Microsystems.
Google say that a win for Oracle could be bad news for future compatibility as companies will be too scared to borrow from each other in order to make applications work well.