SAN JOSE – Three things are clear about Oracle’s Java patent infringement suit against Google’s Android: It will likely drag on for years, it poses a great but remote risk to Android and Java developers and it will make for lots of fascinating reading.
When the suit was filed nearly two years ago, we predicted it wouldn’t dampen enthusiasm for Android. Indeed the mobile operating systems has now become the most widely used smartphone OS and has expanded its popularity across the diverse embedded systems terrain.
Nevertheless, the case poses the risk Google might be forced to change parts of the Android code, fragmenting what has become a leading open source software platform. That’s a remote possibility to be sure, but if it came to pass it would be the equivalent of an earthquake for mobile and embedded developers.
Ironically, about a year after the case was filed James Gosling, the father of Java at Sun Microsystems, joined Google. After Oracle acquired Sun, Gosling expressed concerns about Oracle’s plans around Java.
"During our integration meetings between Sun and Oracle, where we were being grilled about the patent situation between Sun and Google, we could see the Oracle lawyer’s eyes sparkle," said Gosling in his blog where he notes he has left Google for a robotics company.
The good news is the case makes for fascinating reading, and there’s a lot to read. Slides of the opening arguments from Oracle and from Google are both available online as is the initial case filing.
The most chilling part of the suit for Android users is the following claim from Oracle: "Users of Android, including device manufacturers, must obtain and use copyrightable portions of the Java platform or works derived therefrom to manufacture and use functioning Android devices," Oracle claims in its suit.
Among the many reporters and bloggers following the case, Florian Mueller stands out as one focused on the current mobile patent wars. He shared a helpful link of journalists tweeting from the courtroom for those who want ongoing coverage.
I agree with xorbit in saying a patent doesn't have to be sell-able so that the inventor can make a profit. Patents make profit even if never sold because they enable a company to be the only ones allowed to use it. The company is the one obligated to pay the inventor. But I also disagree with xorbit whe you say that they are changing history. I suppose the company that buys another company's patent portfolio acquires the right to profit from the patent until it expires (10? 20 years?). I think this is why Oracle is suing Google. They have the right to profit from the patent, not the right to claim the invention.
An inventor can come up with a great idea but it's not only the idea that makes money, a company will take care of marketing it, manufacturing it, selling the product, and all what's involved in a business. Thus, this gives the company a logical right to profit.
If you couldn't sell patents, inventors of genuinely innovative inventions would still be able to profit, I'm sure. The thousands of junk patents that are being filed nowadays would probably not fare so well, and that's a good thing.
I know patents have value and they can be bought and sold--I just think this is what's fundamentally wrong with the system as it is.
The original intent of the patent system was to reward innovative people and promote sharing of ideas, but it is completely hijacked by lawyers and big money, providing no protection whatsoever for the intended benefactor: the inventor.
A patent should be a historic record that shows who invented something. Is should not be possible to assign, sell or buy it. This would foster a situation where the individual inventor reaps the reward for his invention. Yes, this can be in conjunction with the company he works for, but the inventor stays in control, his invention cannot be taken away from him. In such a situation, companies would have to place high value on their engineers, instead of wringing inventions out of them, throwing them away and then using their inventions to club someone (sometimes even the original inventor!) with it.
@xobit- Evan though patents are intangible, because they have have potential value they can be bought and sold. They parallel "good will" which is valued when a business is sold. The "messiness" comes about because often multiple inventors have the same idea nearly simultaneously, early documentation may not be precisely accurate, and complex patents often are based upon prior inventions and partial developments. I don't think anyone is trying to alter history by stating they invented something they did not, but for all practical purposes if they purchased the patent, the difference is not important.
Buying and selling patents should just not be allowed. Did Oracle invent Java? No they didn't. Why should they be allowed to "buy" the legal right to claim that they invented it, which is clearly not true? When the real inventor clearly disagrees with what they're doing?
Why is it considered OK to rewrite history on who invented what, and go to court based on "bought evidence"? The whole system is completely insane.
Join our online Radio Show on Friday 11th July starting at 2:00pm Eastern, when EETimes editor of all things fun and interesting, Max Maxfield, and embedded systems expert, Jack Ganssle, will debate as to just what is, and is not, and embedded system.