As we previously reported, Oracle America has filed suit against Google for (primarily) patent infringement. If you're not familiar with the case, I'll quickly summarize.

Oracle claims Google is in violation of seven U.S. patents previously filed by Sun Microsystems as part of the Java platform. Oracle now owns Sun. The alleged infringer, more specifically, is Android. If you want a more detailed explanation, read the next paragraph. If not, look at the pretty picture and continue.

The patents generally relate to the Java virtual machine (JVM). Apps on your Android phone run through the Dalvik VM (DVM), a Google / Open Handset Alliance developed alternative to JVM that utilizes portions of an open source Java implementation known as Apache Harmony. Harmony still uses stacks (software modules) that are part of the JVM in its implementation. Sun, as part of its open-source Java initiative, gave Apache a license in 2006 to freely distribute Harmony as an open-source implementation of Java. But, there was a caveat: Sun explicitly stated to Apache that Harmony could not be implemented on mobile devices (as you may guess, this is where things get sticky for Google).


I'm probably infringing on Oracle's patent for Larry Ellison's face

Oracle, one of America's most prolific litigants in the tech industry, likely realized its case against Google early on in its acquisition of Sun. It seems that Sun themselves never actually planned on suing Google - despite the fact that the two had a falling out over Google's refusal to implement a heavily branded and licensed implementation of Sun's own JavaVM in Android. In the end, Sun's own CEO expressed excitement over Android when it was released as a major boost to Java's open source initiative, and it seemed differences had been settled.

Google is sure to cite this in its response to Oracle's claims. In addition, Google goes out of its way to assert that Oracle, as part of its previous membership on Sun's board, often supported resolutions that would have made Java more open - resolutions that would have prevented this suit from ever occurring.


Oracle's newest Java implementation

Google's answer to Oracle's patent infringement claims? Prove it. This is typical in tech lawsuits - often the plaintiff (the party making the claim) will file a lawsuit that is concrete enough to make it to court, but is so vague that it's difficult for the defendant to figure out what specific attacks are being made. Google is essentially requesting clarification. Sun specified the patents it claims Google has violated in its filing, but did not specify precisely how Google is violating them.

In response, Google has motioned for what is known as "declaratory judgment" in regard to each of the seven patents, and on two issues. First, whether Google is infringing upon the patent. Second, whether the patent is valid and enforceable. What does this mean? It means Oracle will have to file a response to Google's motions, and that response will need Oracle's specific arguments regarding how Google is infringing on each of the patents in question, and why these patents are valid and enforceable.

If Oracle's response fails to show both for any one patent, that patent's infringement claim will be dismissed. It's important to note that Oracle bears the burden of proof if the case goes to trial. Google has also filed ten additional defenses in response to Oracle's allegations, some of them stronger than others. To summarize them, Google is basically saying that the way Sun allowed Java to be used in recent years makes any claim regarding these patents unenforceable. Additionally, Google claims Oracle is a jerk and always steals its lunch money on Taco Tuesdays.

Who has the better case? At this point, it's difficult to say. Google's moral defense is a strong one, and this isn't something a judge will be unsympathetic to. However, if Oracle can decisively show any one of its patents meets the requirements for enforceability and of infringement, Google could be in serious trouble down the road.

In regard to speculations about injunctive relief (Oracle wants to put a halt on the sale of Android devices until the issue is resolved by a jury trial), it is extremely unlikely a California judge would provide Oracle such a remedy. It has generally been regarded as an impractical and unduly harmful solution for cases involving the tech industry - so I can say that any speculation about Android device sales being halted is sheer hyperbole.

Source: AllThingsDigital for Google Answer and Counterclaims

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Westy

    Thanks for the legal explanation. You are always good at them and give the best explanation, warranted you are a law student lol.

  • Vicky Cantu

    Google does not, and will never bare the burden of proof in this case. As the defendant, they have no obligation to prove anything. The burden of proof always rests with the plaintiff, which in this case Oracle. By Google filing a declaratory judgment, they've merely called Oracle out and reminded them that they still hold this burden. It's a short cut for Google, and if Oracle doesn't hit all their marks like descirbed, then there's less stuff in question during trial.

    • David Ruddock

      haha, can you tell I hadn't had my coffee yet? That's fixed, I feel stupid.

      Second part I disagree with - it is a shortcut, but it's a shortcut to dismissal-land. Google definitely does not want to go to trial, Oracle does.

      Google's primary defenses are the doctrine of laches and equitable estoppel, and relatedly, Oracle's bad faith ("unclean hands") in filing the suit. Google's strongest chance in winning this suit is going to be in dismissal, these declaratory judgments will essentially have to consider all of Google's arguments around enforceability of the patents.

      Many of the patents are also quite vague - though some more closely related to the VM are specific enough that they're clearly enforceable from a substantive point of view.

      Google is going to try really hard to show Oracle's (and by relation, Sun's) actions in the past bar them from suit at this point.

      If this makes it to trial on the merits, I don't think Google will be nearly as confident, and most juries will be overwhelmed by the technical arguments around the infringement of these patents. It all comes down to what Oracle's answer to Google's counterclaims contains, so we'll see soon.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Just Some Guy

    WOW i know i don't know the legal mambo jumbo like most people do but some how i think apple is in the shadow on this one anything to slow Google down, sadly it will not work because for them to take action on this they will not only have to stop sales of phone/tabs/smart books it would be a total re-wright of the android Os, and tell me this how many people are truly going to update to a new Os that's not going to run the apps they payed for or developing/programing.

    yeah some how some way its Apple's Fault

  • Phil

    Your article feeds right into what I thought about Google's approach as soon as I started reading various articles about it. Win or loose Google has really hit Oracle in the gut and ensured that for them to win they will have to completely alienate the Java community. Basically it looks like Oracle has to state whether they really see Java as free or whether they intend to lock it down and monetize.

    There are many in the Java community already calling for forks of the language (along with other projects taken over by Oracle that have already forked). A win by Oracle could cost them the whole Java community and send their whole Sun purchase plan down the toilet. They won't be able to achieve the full stack from hardware on up that they were dreaming of. Its now loose loose for them. They can loose out on trying to cut in on the mobile market or they can loose the Java community altogether. Google will make the needed adjustments to Android and keep right on going.