Friday, December 6, 2013

This Patent Troll War Against Android Is Ridiculous

First, the Rockstar consortium brings a proxy lawsuit against Google's Android aimed directly at its OEM partners to reduce the influence of Android.  Now Oracle attempts to revive a copyright lawsuit on Java that they lost previously.  I think this Patent Troll War against Google is getting ridiculous.

I understand that in the first lawsuit some of the OEM partners settled their cases with Microsoft, who forced their hand to expand Windows 8 on their mobile devices, most notably smartphones.  Just because Microsoft forced them to create more Windows 8 products does not guarantee the consumer base is going to love them enough to ditch other alternatives.  Out of all the members of Rockstar consortium, Microsoft had the most to gain even though it is a direct competitor to Apple, one of the other members of that consortium.  I am quite surprised that Apple united with Microsoft on this front, considering recent market activity shows it losing iPhone market share to Windows Phone rather than Android losing market share to Windows Phone.  If anything, I think Apple has more to fear from Microsoft rather than Google because Microsoft products are deeply entrenched in the corporate world and Microsoft can offer vertical product integration that Apple cannot.  So, I think Apple is shooting itself in the foot by helping a potentially dangerous competitor get stronger in a market Apple dominates in some areas of the world.  I understand the legacy of the late Steve Jobs made it clear that he felt ripped by Android.  If he were alive today, do you think he would have made the decision to sacrifice the survival of the company for the sake of revenge against a competitor he felt stole their product ideas?  In other words, why cut off your nose to spite your face?  You don't win either way.

With regard to the latest lawsuit by Oracle, I understand Larry Ellison was good friends with Steve Jobs and that this may be his way of trying to preserve his good friend's legacy.  Or it could be just typical Larry trying to squeeze as much profit as he can in every possible way, considering his flagship Fusion product line is about as much of a hit with corporate customers as Windows 8 is with consumers.  Whatever the case may be, I believe this particular case is frivolous.

Why?  Because the Java API's being contested here were created in 2007 under the GPL. Sun, the previous owner, of the language Java and its code properties released it to the Open Source community under the GPL on May 8, 2007.  So what really needs to examined is whether Google properly followed the guidelines of the GPL during that time period.  When Sun released Java to the GPL, there was a stipulation that if any developers or companies modified that Java code and released it with the Java logo and trademark it needed to be certified by Sun to meet code standards and they also needed to pay Sun a license fee.  Those facts are what determined what was "copyrightable".  What Google did was modified Java API's (or in some people's eyes) copied the functionality using the same Java API names but used their own source code.  Then Google released those new Java API's under the GPL to the Open Source community and called it part of its "Android" project.  No Sun Java branding was included.  Therefore the new Java API's Google created were not "copyrightable".  This pre-dates when Oracle acquired Sun in 2010.  So how can Oracle claim ownership of a product created before it acquired Sun when that product was created according to the rules of the GPL and released to the Open Source community?

Now I hear that in court, they are arguing whether copying the Java API names is copyrightable despite the fact that the new Java API's are original source code not copied source code.  Frankly, I feel all those details are irrelevant given the facts that I outlined above.

If Oracle wins this case, it will set a legal precedent for companies like SAP to acquire Red Hat Linux, change its licensing rules and claim that Oracle violated its patent by releasing Oracle Unbreakable Linux on Sparc servers.  After all, isn't Oracle Unbreakable Linux a "copy" of Red Hat Linux?

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