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It's 'Goliath versus Goliath' as Oracle files patent lawsuit against Google [Updated]

August 13, 2010 | 11:27 am

Oracle Corp. dropped a major bombshell on Google Inc. late Thursday, kicking off what could be an epic clash of Silicon Valley titans.

Oracle filed a patent and copyright infringement lawsuit against Google over its Android software that uses technology Oracle bought when it acquired Sun Microsystems Inc. in January. Google's Android software is used in mobile phones produced by Motorola Inc., Taiwan’s HTC Corp. and others.

“In developing Android, Google knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property,” Redwood City-based Oracle said in a statement. “This lawsuit seeks appropriate remedies for their infringement.”

[Updated at 11:43 a.m.: A spokesman for Mountain View- based Google said in an e-mailed statement: "We are disappointed Oracle has chosen to attack both Google and the open-source Java community with this baseless lawsuit. 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.”]

"This is a case of Goliath versus Goliath," IDC analyst Al Hilwa said.

The surprise bid to control use of the software has sparked an uproar in Silicon Valley. The lawsuit is the first to attempt to milk money from Java. It seeks unspecific damages and an injunction. An injunction could throw a major monkey wrench into developers building applications using Android software and in the production of Android phones.

Sun’s Java lets developers write software that works on a variety of computers and systems and runs on countless mobile devices. Sun held thousands of patents but backed open source sharing. It cut licensing deals for Java, but also offered free versions. It was often criticized for not making enough money from Java.

Oracle’s maverick Chief Executive Officer Larry Ellison called Java “the single most important software asset we have ever acquired.”

And Android mobile phones are emerging as a very valuable business line for Google. To date, there are 60 Android devices built by 21 handset makers. Android will be in almost a fifth of all smart phones by 2012, research firm iSuppli Corp. projects. That has set off furious competition and a flurry of patent-infringement claims including claims from Microsoft Corp., which has said that Android may infringe on its patents.

Of all the executives in Silicon Valley, Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt is more aware than most of the value of Java. He worked at Sun and led its Java development efforts before joining Google in 2001.

Java is essential to Android, analysts said. "This will have an effect on Android," Hilwa said.

Android software is used by handset makers and carriers as well as legions of software developers. "All of these people are going to be concerned whether they are in compliance or if they are infringing on patents," Hilwa said. "There is all of the sudden a cloud of uncertainty over Android that could impact the adoption of Android down the road depending on how these things play out."

--  Jessica Guynn

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