Two Silicon Valley tech giants, locked in two years of patent infringement litigation, are finally hoping for a solution. A trial starts on Monday in a San Francisco court of Oracle Inc.'s suit against Google (GOOG: Quote).
The Java developer's lawsuit in a U.S. District Court claims that the search engine giant's Android operating system infringes intellectual property rights relating to the programming language. Android is one of the most widely-used operating systems in smartphones.
Oracle, a business hardware and software provider, is reportedly claiming about $1 billion in compensation in the trial, which is expected to last up to 10 weeks - likely lasting until the end of June.
Java, which became part of Oracle through the acquisition of Sun Microsystems (now known as Oracle America) in 2009, was first released in 1995. The language allows software to be run across computer platforms and is used by many business applications as well as other software on PCs.
In its lawsuit, filed back in August 2010, Oracle argues that its possibility of licensing Java to mobile phone makers was undermined by Google, which uses Java intellectual property, and then giving Android away for free.
In a court filing dated October 14, 2011, Oracle expressed its worries, stating that "Because Android exploits Java but is not fully compatible with it, Android represents Sun's, and now Oracle's, nightmare: an incompatible forking of the Java platform, which undermines the fundamental 'write once, run anywhere' premise of Java that is so critical to its value and appeal."
Meanwhile, Google argues that it doesn't violate Oracle's patents, and that Oracle cannot copyright computer programming languages.
Java, which is free for anyone to use without licence, is not the main center of the case. Rather, the trial will center on the use of Oracle's 37 APIs (application programming interfaces) that allow developers to write Java-compatible code.
Oracle alleges that 103,400 lines of its API specifications appeared on Android's developer website.
In a filed court document dated April 12, Oracle said, "The APIs represent years of creative design... Other than a few classes, Google was not required to copy the selection, organization, and structure of the APIs to be compatible with the Java programming language."
APIs allow different parts of a program to communicate together, allowing Android apps to access the phone's features like its screen and memory.
To this, Google replied that APIs are so fundamental that without them the Java programming language has no ability to provide any output to the user and that it is "deaf, dumb and blind."
Oracle also alleges that Google has infringed two of its patents relating to a data processing enhancement.
While filing the case seeking appropriate remedies, Oracle had argued that Google "knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle's Java-related intellectual property."
While replying to Judge William H. Alsup's order on April 6 asking each side to "take a firm yes or no position on whether computer programming languages are copyrightable," Google argued that the technologies involved should not be covered by copyright law.
Since then, the case has been going through numerous delays, despite announcing many potential trial start dates. Today's date was set once the final effort for another round of settlement talks was failed.
As part of various out of the court settlement efforts, Google reportedly offered to pay Oracle a small amount in damages for the two patents, and also a deal of 0.5 percent from Android revenue for one patent through December 2012 and 0.015 percent on a second patent through April 2018.
However, Oracle rebuffed the offer, leading both companies to the court room.
It is reported that a win by Oracle in the API copyright claims could force Google to alter Android, leading independent software developers to recode apps designed for the platform.
On the Nasdaq stock exchange, Google shares are currently trading at $608.47, down $16.13 or 2.58 percent, and Oracle shares are currently at $28.43, down $0.07 or 0.25 percent.
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by RTT Staff Writer
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