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Oracle’s Suit Against Google: Unlikely To Prevail

Oracle recently filed suit against Google claiming some not-too-well defined claims of misuse of the Java patents or usage (the exact nature of the suit still hasn't been made completely clear).  But wiser heads than mine have been looking into it, like the savvy folks at Groklaw, and the initial take is that this just isn't going to fly.

For one thing, Oracle is represented by Boies, Schiller & Flexner, the same people who "represented" SCO straight into their horrendous  flaming death spiral (which was fitting, frankly). As PJ from Groklaw says, "Boies Schiller are more like the trainees when it comes to patents and IP law. Their specialties, as far as I can see, are more making the absurd sound at least not actionably frivolous and using administrative tricks to drag things out forever and a day…". That would be my take on Boies Schiller too, but PJ puts it more succintly. I would probably opine that they're bottom-feeding hacks who would run over you in a crosswalk and then sue you for a new bumper and paint job.

But there's a lot more to this than the attorneys involved, and part of it is Oracle's motivation; that is, why sue Google? Really, what's the real reason behind all of this? Theories are all over the board, but some make more sense than others.

Tech blogger Carlo Daffara says "Oracle found a substantial technology it acquired (Java) losing value in what is the hottest tech market today, namely mobile systems. Sun had no credible plan to update JavaME, no credible alternative, and thus Android (that is loosely java based) is at the same time a threat to an acquired asset and (from their point of view) a stolen technology. Since anyone can follow the same path, Oracle wants to make sure that no one else would try to leverage Java to create an unlicensed (and uncontrolled) copy."

He goes on to say, "Oracle wants a piece of the mobile enterprise market, and the alternatives are unavailable (Apple does not want anything to do with Java, Blackberry is a JavaME licensee, Windows Mobile is backed by arch-rival Microsoft). Android is working well, grows incredibly fast, and Oracle wants a piece of it; Google probably rebuffed initial contacts, and now Oracle is showing the guns to make Google obey."

This is the most likely and believable theory put forth so far, in my humble opinion (which is, of course, better than yours, by the way). It seems a stretch to imagine that given the lengths which Google has gone to separate the development language for Android (Java) from the actual bytecode that runs on the Android that Oracle can really have a valid claim.

So what is Oracle thinking? James Gosling, the Father Of Java, has this to say: "The collection of patents specified by the suit seems pretty laughable to me. If I were Google, I wouldn't be particularly worried about showing prior art for the patents in question or demonstrating how Android/Dalvik don't actually violate them. Some, like the "mixed mode" patent, don't actually seem to apply at all. It feels very much like a bunch of Sun engineers got together in a room with a bunch of lawyers and started digging for patents that Google might have violated without actually knowing much about Android or Dalvik to begin with."

And that is probably a fair indication of exactly where this is going to fall to Earth. Oracle's claims will be found to be wanting, but only after hundreds of millions are spent in this all-you-can-eat buffet for the attorneys involved.

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