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Oracle legal move evokes many questionsJay Lyman, August 13, 2010 @ 2:30 pm ET
There are many questions that arise out of Oracle’s copyright and patent infringement complaint against Google regarding its use of Java in Android. There are several things that make the suit significant to the entire industry: it centers not just on software copyright, but also software patents (an increasingly and hotly debated issue), the quickly-expanding smartphone market and open source software. The first question is: what is Oracle doing?
Many are speculating that this is simply an effort to further and more effectively monetize Java, a storied program language that has move more toward openness and survived several supposed death sentences as newer languages arrived. Still, with all of the open source parts — GlassFish application server, MySQL database, OpenOffice.org suite — is Java the most significant to Oracle? It may be, but regardless of what Oracle is doing, its legal moves here may certainly have an impact on the many other open source projects from Sun that are now under Oracle’s umbrella.
Oracle may also simply be initiating an IP licensing effort around Java, but as Microsoft has found, this can be a delicate endeavor to say the least. Another possibility is that Oracle, not typically mentioned or meaningful when we discuss the hot market of smartphones, wants to make sure the world knows its Java code is in many of that Android technology. Still, there are more constructive ways to go about that, I would think.
We have questioned Oracle’s full appreciation for open source software before, but its latest action simply brings more questions to mind.
The smartphone market is seeing incredible opportunity, competition and innovation right now? In addition, with waves of iPhone and more recently Android popularity, the smartphone market might even be poised for a slow in growth (even though it is by many accounts the fastest growing technology market). Still, if there is some slowing that was part of the natural market cycle, will Oracle take some or even all of the blame?
Given that Google is adept at software development and using open source, we also have to wonder about the impact of any and all major workarounds. Plans may already be well underway to circumvent the use of Java in Android and any range of other devices or markets where it has managed to stay relevant despite its age. This could finally make Java less relevant, or at the least have a negative effect on Java development going forward.
One thing seems clear, Oracle’s move makes all that software patent discussion and debate more relevant and more real. We have sensed a coming storm over software patents, but we did not anticipate a first shot from Oracle, frankly. One of the biggest questions now is what kind of reaction will this trigger from the likes of the Open Invention Network, Linux Foundation (of which Oracle is a Platinum member and Google is a Gold member) or others with resources and interest in legally defending Linux and open source software?
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