In Its Android/Java Lawsuit, Oracle Is Experiencing Setbacks
Back in August of last year, Oracle filed a complaint for patent and copyright infringement against Google, regarding parts of the Java code found in Google's Android mobile OS. At the time, the move was decried by many as exactly the type of anti-open move that a company focused on proprietary software would make in the wake of its acquisition of Sun Microsystems. It rang of an attempt to build a moat around Java, which Oracle's Larry Ellison had pronounced the crown jewel in the acquisition of Sun. Now, as Groklaw reports, Oracle has been dealt a number of legal setbacks in the suit, despite the fact that some analysts see Oracle's legal position as sound.
"Oracle has experienced another setback in its assertion of its patents against Google. In the reexamination of U.S. Patent 6192476 the USPTO has issued an office action in which it rejects 17 of the patent's 21 claims. While Oracle has asserted seven different patents in its claims against Google, if this reexamination is exemplary of what Oracle can expect in each of the other reexaminations, Oracle will have a hard time finding claims that it can successfully assert against Google, and there lies Oracles conundrum. Oracle either has to agree with the court's directive to limit the number of claims it will assert at trial, or it is likely the court will simply stay the trial until the reexaminations are complete."
"In May, the judge hearing the case told Oracle to slim down its number of claims against Google, from the original 132. US District Judge William Alsup wrote at the time that Oracle must narrow its claims against Google to a "triable number."
In essence, the court is demanding that Oracle contain what is interpreted as a blanket set of claims against Google, and it's now likely that any victories Oracle wins in this legal battle will be smaller in scale than they might have been before.
While not purely open source, Java has been forked and fragmented a number of times, and Sun always kept a primarily open stance toward it. Back when the suit was filed it was easy to agree with Dana Blankenhorn that the suit "challenges the whole open source establishment."
At this point, it appears that this legal battle will continue, but it is generating bad PR for Oracle, and raising questions about how valid Oracle's stance toward Java is. Meanwhile, Android continues to march on to remarkable success, directly challenging Apple's iOS in an effort that is likely to make it the dominant smartphone platform. It couldn't have done that without favoring open standards and principles.