Google will put up a fight in response to the patent- and copyright-infringement lawsuit that Oracle filed over the use of Java in the Android mobile phone platform.
Oracle’s lawsuit is a disappointing and “baseless” attack not only against Google but also against the open-source Java community, Google spokesman Aaron Zamost said via e-mail on Friday.
“The open-source Java community goes beyond any one corporation and works every day to make the web a better place. We will strongly defend open-source standards and will continue to work with the industry to develop the Android platform,” he said.
Google infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property “knowingly, directly and repeatedly,” Oracle said on Thursday in a statement about the lawsuit, which it filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Along with its acquisition of Sun Microsystems earlier this year, Oracle also obtained Sun’s Java technology. Oracle is specifically taking issue with the Dalvik Java compatible technology Google developed for Android.
As described in official Android documentation, Dalvik is a virtual machine optimized for mobile devices, and all Android applications run in their own process with their own Dalvik instance.
“Dalvik has been written so that a device can run multiple VMs efficiently. The Dalvik VM executes files in the Dalvik Executable (.dex) format which is optimized for minimal memory footprint. The VM is register-based, and runs classes compiled by a Java language compiler that have been transformed into the .dex format by the included ‘dx’ tool,” reads an official document about Android for developers. “The Dalvik VM relies on the Linux kernel for underlying functionality such as threading and low-level memory management.”
There had been speculation in the past over a possible legal challenge from Sun over Dalvik, and given Android’s success, it’s not entirely surprising to see Oracle get litigious, IDC analyst Al Hilwa said. However, the fight could seriously harm Android at this point in its development, he added.
“Many expected Sun to raise some hay about Google’s fork of the Java code to produce Dalvik, but having waited for Android to be a success can be quite disruptive,” Hilwa said via e-mail.
“This is a typical intellectual property value defense lawsuit, but it can have serious consequences on the Android market and its adoption by OEMs. Basically, it says that Oracle wants to get into the action and leverage its acquired Java assets better financially,” Hilwa added.
Oracle’s lawsuit didn't surprise James Gosling, widely considered the father of Java. “During the 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. Filing patent suits was never in Sun’s genetic code,” he wrote in his personal blog, which at press time seemed to be offline.
Oracle has a right to sue, but it may pay a price from a long-term public relations perspective, said Forrester Research analyst Jeffrey Hammond.
“Google can always probably give Oracle some money and have this go away,” Hammond said. “But this sets a bad tone, as you see a lot of people wondering what kind of steward Oracle is going to be for Java.”
The suit makes it clear that Oracle intends to control Java innovation, he said. “If you want get something done [with Java], you’ve got to go through Oracle to make it happen,” he said.
A flip side to the lawsuit is that it gives Google a reason to look at alternatives in the long term, such as working on compatibility with Microsoft’s Silverlight framework for rich Internet applications, Hammond said.