Enterprise software giant Oracle Corp. last week filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Google, claiming its Android operating system violates a number of key Java patents.
The suit specifically points to Android’s Dalvik VM and the software development kit , as well as key areas like Android’s security, the software’s methods for determining how threads access resources, and its pre-processing and packaging of class files.
Other patent areas that are alleged to be violated include: Android’s approach to dynamically preloading classes through memory space cloning, the way the software resolves data references in generated code;, and function that use both virtual and native machine instructions.
The complaint also states that “Google has been aware of Sun’s patent portfolio, including the patents at issue, since the middle of this decade, when Google hired certain former Sun Java engineers,” notes SD Times. The suit also claims the Android OS threatens Oracle’s Java business.
In the suit, Oracle is asking for an immediate stop of patent violations, as well as a treble damage award, as called for under U.S. patent laws. Java was developed by Sun Microsystems, which was acquired by Oracle in January of this year.
At the very least, the legal action has sparked a ‘clash of titans’, according to a dispatch in the Los Angeles Times. In that article, Google expressed disappointment that “Oracle has chosen to attack both Google and the open-source Java community with this baseless lawsuit.”
There is some irony and perhaps a legal hook in the lawsuit since Google CEO Eric Schmidt previously worked at Sun Microsystems and led that company’s Java development before joining Google in 2001.
An Apples to Oranges Comparison?
Critics of Oracle’s actions may point to the basic differences between Java VM and the Dalvik VM used in the Android OS and created by Google developer Dan Bornstein. While Java VMs are so-called ‘stack machines, that use instructions to load data on the stack and manipulate that data, Dalik VM relies on a register-based architecture, which encodes the source and destination registers, according to sources. There is, however, some conversion of Java file going on, which may add fuel to the patent infringement fire.
News of the lawsuit is particularly unsettling to mobile software developers, since the Android market has been growing by leaps and bounds and proving to be a fertile field. Many claim the action hinders innovation.
To date, there are 60 or more Android-based devices in existence and more expected to come, from cellular phones to tablet PCs. In fact, the Android OS is expected to be in at least one-fifth of all smartphones by 2012, according to market researcher iSuppli.