Robert Pogson

One man, closing all the windows.

Daily Archives / Friday, August 13, 2010

  • Aug 13 / 2010
  • 8

Now We Know. Oracle is a Software-Patent Troll

There are two kinds of patent trolls:

  1. those who buy a patent for a widely used technology and sue over it
  2. those who create a technology and promote it with few strings attached and then sue

Oracle has turned out to be the first kind. They appear to have purchased Sun with the intent of going after Google and others over Android.

I am not that familiar with Java. I don’t code it and I run few applications which use it. That’s because I have mostly standard PCs and the usual desktop applications do the job. Java was designed for software portability. If you have a Java Virtual Machine for any mind of computer, an application written in standard Java will run on it. That’s a great idea that Sun implemented but could not turn into a huge cash-flow. Sun was advertised for sale and Java was one of the top properties. Oracle and IBM wanted it but Oracle was the highest bidder/most determined. Now we know why. Oracle wants to tax implementations of Java. The simple solutions are to pay the tax so that Oracle achieves the dreams of SCOG v World or to drop Java. Both solutions are problematic because the tax can run for many years on billions of devices and the cost of migrating hundreds of thousands of applications to other language(s) would be immense. The difficult solution is to fight but that will be time-consuming, expensive and fraught with risks and delays that no one wants.

In the normal course of events this might be settled with cross-licensing but Google has promoted Android as a Free Software solution and the cross-licensing will not propagate to all the users and applications. I doubt Google could afford to pay the tax for the world for billions of devices. That leaves fighting as the best solution. Both Google and Oracle must have already discussed the situation. Normally this would be done quietly. By filing the suit, Oracle has damaged Google’s interests and Google has to fight. The world will be waiting with bated breath hoping the collateral damage is acceptable. On the bright side, within a few years, Oracle’s patents could be disallowed and possibly all software-patents could suffer the same fate. There is no way a virtual machine is a “particular machine”.

I think it is clear that Oracle does not get FLOSS. They could have developed far more elegant, useful and productive ways of profiting from Java without suing the world. Instead they roll the dice hoping to get lucky and not lose software-patents, good-will, even Java. If they are successful Java could be killed, certainly on the mobile devices where it is quite important.

The issues will emerge in future filings and arguments in court but they seem to centre on creating a “non-standard” Java VM breaking the patent-truce declared for use of the “standard” Java VMs from Sun. I have no idea how Oracle feels copyrights were violated since Google wrote their own code.

This appears to be the springing of the Java-trap that Stallman warned about. Can the world create an alternative to Java and port all these apps to spite Oracle in a year or so? Don’t say .NET because it and mono have the same problems as Java as far as software-patents, reliance on an unreliable “partner”. I do not see how Google can lose ultimately but the lawyers for Oracle are the same bunch who dragged out SCOG v World for 7 years and counting. The world of technology cannot wait even one year in uncertainty. The world will move on while these two fight. no doubt Oracle will seek injunctions which could affect a very wide circle.

UPDATE One little detail gleaned from GROKLAW is that Oracle has retained legal firms from both sides of SCOG v Novell. Boise, Schiller, and Flexner represented SCOG and Morrison and Foerster represented Novell. While it could be that a large corporation may well deal with more than one law-firm. I suspect that Oracle tied up both because they are expert at the copyright/patent game and have had years to practice in SCOG v Novell and it would be helpful to Oracle if Google could not use them due to conflicts. How would you like to be Google going up against that gang when Boies, Schiller and Flexner kept the world at bay for 7 years with no evidence at all? On the other hand, they are probably the first firm you would call if you were a patent-troll.

  • Aug 13 / 2010
  • 23

Oracle Attacks Android With Software Patents on Java

Oracle, apparently, does not believe patents on software is a dead issue. They are suing Google over use of Java in Android which is GNU/Linux with a Java environment. Sun did not sue Google. Why is Oracle? Is it because Android is a roaring success and Oracle wants to capitalize on it? No. Oracle is asking the court to ban Android, seize all devices, penalize Google etc. which would effectively kill Android. Presumably this means Google refused to pay licensing fees to Oracle over Java. We all thought Sun had opened Java. What did we miss? Did Oracle read the licence? Did Google use the non-FREE version?

Besides the software patents, Oracle claims Google violated copyright in Java and led others to do the same:
“39. Without consent, authorization, approval, or license, Google knowingly, willingly, and unlawfully copied, prepared, published, and distributed Oracle America’s copyrighted work, portions thereof, or derivative works and continues to do so. Google’s Android infringes Oracle America’s copyrights in Java and Google is not licensed to do so.

40. On information and belief, 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. Such use is not licensed. Google has thus induced, caused, and materially contributed to the infringing acts of others by encouraging, inducing, allowing and assisting others to use, copy, and distribute Oracle America’s copyrightable works, and works derived therefrom.”.

Is Oracle the new SCOG? SCOG did not hold the copyrights it was suing over but the folks it was suing had a valid licence anyway, just as Google should. What’s with that?

UPDATE Groklaw is on this case with a vengeance…

UPDATE Days later there is still not even a public statement from Google. I would have expected them to at least have a filing to the SEC saying there had been legal claims filed by Oracle. No doubt it will take some time to assemble a legal team and generate a formal response but investors should have been informed of the situation. The lack of such a statement suggests Google has been disrupted/surprised by the claims. I would have expected a rich corporation like Google would have all its ducks in a row a long time ago while in negotiations with Oracle or SUN. It could be that Google sees the matter as minor but if Oracle should win that would be grounds for even more suits from shareholders. Most large corporations have legal beagles protecting their behinds on a moment’s notice.

UPDATE SJVN has written a thorough analysis including lots of comments by experts. The consensus seems to be that it is a short-sighted affair to make money. I cannot see Google agreeing to pay a tax to Oracle for a decade instead of fighting and winning in a few years. Oracle will almost certainly keep moving the goalposts so settling will cost forever.

UPDATE Glyn Moody has his say.

  • Aug 13 / 2010
  • 5

Digg is Changing

Digg like some other social sites has a “bury” button. Rumour has it that the “bury” button has been abused by censoring groups of users with multiple accounts, etc. astroturfing. Version 4 of Digg may have no “bury” button and may be an improvement. has been unable to hold back the abusers so a new model is required.

Digg V4 is in alpha testing now.

I used to spend time on Digg and other forums that had this “censorship” problem but it was a waste of time because GNU/Linux and Free Software are erased routinely. SJVN has reported that with his stories that seemed “popular” and suddenly buried.