Oracle Corp. filed a patent- and copyright-infringement lawsuit against Google Inc., claiming its Android software for mobile devices uses technology Oracle obtained in its January acquisition of Sun Microsystems Inc.
“In developing Android, Google knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property,” Karen Tillman, a spokeswoman for Redwood City, Calif.-based Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL), said in a statement Thursday. “This lawsuit seeks appropriate remedies for their infringement.”
The suit opens up a new front in Silicon Valley’s smartphone software wars, pitting Oracle against the fastest- growing mobile operating system. Android, used on devices such as Motorola Inc.’s (NYSE: MOT) Droid X and HTC Corp.’s Droid Incredible, was the best-selling operating software in the U.S. in the second quarter, topping Research In Motion Ltd. (Nasdaq: RIMM) and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), research firm Gartner Inc. said Thursday.
“Google is under attack in a lot of different ways,” said Will Stofega, a program manager at Framingham, Mass.-based researcher IDC. “It shows the intensity of the fight between everyone trying to control the software.”
Oracle gained the Java programming language as part of its $7.3 billion purchase of Sun. Developed by Sun in mid-1990s, Java lets developers write programs that work across different operating systems and on a variety of computers. It formed a key building block of the Web and is widely used in business applications. The software also runs on billions of mobile devices, Sun said last year.
The complaint targets Google’s Dalvik virtual machine, one of the software programs used to run applications on the phones. Oracle claims the software was developed using the Java platform. Google hired former Sun engineers so it knew of the Java technology, Oracle said in the complaint.
Oracle, which claims seven patents are being violated, is seeking a court ruling that would ban further use of its intellectual property, and would force the destruction of all products that violate Java-related copyrights on the code, documentation and specifications. It also seeks an unspecified amount of cash compensation.
Andrew Pederson, a spokesman for Mountain View, Calif.-based Google, didn’t immediately respond to a voice mail seeking comment Friday.
Java was developed as a proprietary language that needed to be licensed from Sun. During the past decade, then Sun Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Schwartz began making free open-source versions of Java products available.
Most important asset
“Java is the single most important software asset we have ever acquired,” Oracle CEO Larry Ellison said when he first announced the Sun purchase. Oracle will continue to expand the Java business, he said at the time.
While Java is widely used in business applications, many new Websites are favoring programming languages such as Ruby on Rails, which is also distributed under an open source license.
“It’s part of an effort by Oracle to shore up their investment in Java,” Stofega said. “A lot of people would argue Java is losing its relevance versus other platforms.”
Researcher ISuppli Corp. on Aug. 5 projected Android will be in almost a fifth of all smartphones in the world by 2012. It’s used on phones sold through Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S), while the iPhone is available only on AT&T Inc.’s (NYSE: T) network.
The popularity of Android, and the increasing competition in the smartphone market, has prompted other patent-infringement suits. Apple has claimed that HTC’s Android-run phones are infringing its patents and is seeking to block imports of the phones into the U.S.
Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), the world’s biggest software maker and owner of the Windows Mobile operating system, said in April that Android may infringe its patents. Microsoft, which signed a licensing agreement with HTC, said at the time it was in talks with other makers of phones that run on Android.
Oracle and Google will probably settle the case by agreeing to license each other’s patents, IDC’s Stofega said.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt previously worked at Sun. He joined that company in 1983, led its Java development efforts and then was promoted to chief technology officer. Schmidt took the reins at Google in 2001.