As the Oracle v Google trial approaches, we speculate about the impact on Google and the Android community if Oracle was to succeed in obtaining the injunction it is asking for.
Preparations continue for Oracle v Google which is still scheduled to go before Judge William Alsup on 31st October. Although there is a large degree of uncertainty over this date because Judge Alsup may still be caught up in another case, the pre-trial formalities are going ahead and on October 15th the two parties filed their trial briefs.
I am indebted to Florian Muller who has not only uploaded the trial briefs to Scribd, both Oracle's and Google's, but has also summarized their main points in a post on his Foss Patents site. I've read only his summary, but as stated earlier I'm indulging in speculation based on the fact that Oracle's brief explicitly states:
... monetary damages are inadequate to compensate Oracle for the injury Android has caused to the value of the Java platform. An injunction is necessary to prevent Google from further fragmenting the Java platform and undermining Oracle's and others' investments in Java.
Oracle's argument for this injunction isn't just about infringement of its patents but is rather that Google's action with regard to Android, which Oracle repeatedly describes as "wilful" have led to an "incompatible forking of Java" which is injurious to Oracle.
It also states that it:
will forego its injunction request only if Google commits in writing, in a form prescribed by Oracle, to ensure that Android will be Java-compatible and comply with all applicable Java licensing and payment conditions.
In other words what it wants Google to do is to bring Android into compliance with the Java standard to remove this source of fragmentation - a term that crops up often in any discussion of the Android platform.
Florian Muller, who has followed every twist and turn of this case over the past fifteen months comments:
I think this is a smart move by Oracle. The judge appeared reasonably sympathetic to the fragmentation argument. In his decision on Google's summary judgment motion, he wrote that "[o]n the present record, a reasonable fact finder could disagree with Google's rosy depiction of Android's impact on the Java market". Oracle has to prove irreparable harm, and fragmentation is the argument on which it's betting - and it's a strong one (provided that Oracle can prove that Google infringes valid intellectual property rights).
As a developer I have to admit I'm unsettled by this idea, having over the months been lulled into what now might be a false sense of security by the idea that this lawsuit:
isn't likely to have much of a long term impact on mobile development - as we've commented before it's mostly about money and either party can likely afford to pay up.
to quote from a recent item on I Programmer.
An injunction that forced Google to change Android to be more compatible with Java might seem like a good ideal, but how practicable would such a refactoring really be. And could it be made retrospective or just for the future. What aspects of Android would we have to sacrifice. And anyway would Google really undertake such a huge task. At the moment it seems to have a habit of dropping the existing in favor of the new.
An injunction is likely to stop Android development dead for quite some time. How long depends on how compatible Android would have to be made. But if you take the worst possible case of being able to run Java programs without modification, then presumably the Dalvik VM would have to be replaced by a compatible VM - something that might not be possible without serious issues of how fast the code would run. An injunction of this sort would leave every Android developer looking for another platform to work with.
There is also the speculation that Google really doesn't care if it wins. If you think that this is silly then contemplate the outcry against Oracle if it was to win an injunction that stopped new Android devices being activated and stopped the SDK being downloaded or used until such time as Android was declared Java compatible. In this case a strong win for Oracle might just be a poisoned pill.
After reviewing both parties' briefs, Florian Muller concludes:
This lawsuit isn't a cakewalk for Oracle, but I still believe Google should settle rather than take the risk of losing at trial.
If it's still possible to make a purely financial settlement I think I'd go along with that.
The unfolding story on I-Programmer:
Oracle sues Google for Android Java use
Google v Oracle - progress at last?
Further moves in Oracle versus Google lawsuit
Oracle v Google - Judge limits scope of trial
Judge losing patience with Oracle v Google?
Oracle v Google - it's just about money
Patent Office ruling reduces Oracle's case against Google
Patent office rejects entire suit of claims
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