Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Google cleared of patent infringement, embarks on a Java patent acquisition drive


A federal  jury in May found that Google did not infringe on Oracle patents in building its Android mobile operating system, following a patent infringement suit filed by by Oracle in 2010. In the lawsuit, Oracle had argued that in creating the Dalvik virtual machine (the software platform that runs Java applications on Android), the search giant knowingly lifted intellectual property involving two Java-related patents that Oracle acquired with its purchase of Sun Microsystems.

The two patents (U.S. Patents 6,061,520 and RE38,104, aka ’520 and ’104) cover ways of accelerating the software compilation process, i.e. the process of turning raw code into executable applications.

Oracle made six different claims of infringement involving the ’104 patent and two claims related to the ’520 patent, and the jury unanimously dismissed all the claims. “Today’s jury verdict that Android does not infringe Oracle’s patents was a victory not just for Google but the entire Android ecosystem,” read a statement from Google.

Oracle indicated it will continue to push its case. “Oracle presented overwhelming evidence at trial that Google knew it would fragment and damage Java,” read a statement from the company. “We plan to continue to defend and uphold Java’s core write once run anywhere principle and ensure it is protected for the nine million Java developers and the community that depend on Java compatibility.”

The verdict concluded the “patent phase” of the trial. Previously, the jury returned a partial decision on Oracle’s claims of copyright infringement, deciding that Google had infringed in some cases but failing to reach a verdict on the biggest issue in the case: whether or not Google had infringed in cloning 37 Java APIs, or applications programming interfaces.

Patent ’104 — which describes a “method and apparatus for resolving data references in generated code” — was the more important of the two patents at issue. Oracle’s case revolved around the term “symbolic reference” and how Dalvik uses a piece of software called a dx tool to convert Java programming code into executable software, known as .dex files.

The patent details a means of compiling software code in which data is tagged with “symbolic references” rather than numeric memory locations. Oracle argued that in compiling code, Dalvik uses symbolic references. Google said it does not.

The ’520 patent, which received far less attention during the trial, describes a “method and system for performing static initialization.” In short, it covers a way of consolidating classes of files so that virtual machines can execute less code than they otherwise would. Oracle claimed that Google uses simulated execution with Dalvik, while Google said it doesn’t simulate but merely parses files. 

At the conclusion of the verdict, Judge Alsup thanked the jury for its time, saying this was the longest civil trial he’d seen in his 13 years on the bench. The trial started on Apr. 16. Then he dismissed the 10 remaining jurors from the case.

Though the jury has been dismissed, the core issue in the trial is still undecided. Judge William Alsup will rule himself on whether the Java APIs are subject to copyright, and he expects to do so sometime next week.

[Source: wired.com]

In other news, Google has embarked on a massive patent acquisition drive, the biggest acquisitions being Java language patents. These acquisitions are in line with the remarkable success that the Android operating system has delivered to the company, as well as a move to defuse Oracle’s massive Java infringement suit against Google and its Android OS.

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