If you believe Oracle's patent lawsuits against Google for its use of Java in Android, Google has stolen not just patented ideas but directly copied Java code. In short, Google is a red-handed thief and should pay Oracle over a billion in damages. There's just one little problem with this portrayal of Google as an intellectual property (IP) bandit. When Android first came out, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, then Java's owner, greeted the news with “heartfelt congratulations.” Whoops.
While Schwartz's blog post has since been erased by Oracle, Groklaw found the page and has republished it In his note, Schwartz not only congratulates Google “on the announcement of their new Java/Linux phone platform, Android.,” he goes on to announce that “Sun is the first platform software company to commit to a complete developer environment around the platform, as we throw Sun's NetBeans developers platform for mobile devices behind the effort. We've obviously done a ton of work to support developers on all Java based platforms, and we're pleased to add Google's Android to the list.”
So, there you go, Java's owner at the time not only welcomed Android's use of Java, they were actively supporting it with development tools. So, what do you have to say now Oracle?
You'd better come up with something good because when Oracle recently tried to keep evidence out of the public eye, U.S. District Judge William Alsup blasted them. In the Courthouse News, Alsup is reported to have said, “ The big companies do not own the U.S. District Court, When it comes to a public hearing I'm not going to resort to Morse code to figure out what you are saying This is not a wholly-owned subsidiary of Oracle. Nobody is going to put my word under seal even if I refer to your secret documents."
There was nothing secret about Sun's pro-Android position. Indeed, in a sworn statement to the court, Schwartz said his company welcomed Android to the Java community He called ii a "pair of rockets strapped to Java that will take our Java-community even higher."
Groklaw editor, and lawyer Mark Webbink, explains, “Now the interesting question about this and other similar comments that were apparently made by Sun executives is whether the statements communicated an understanding to Google and others that they would not be threatened with Sun's patents; statements upon which they relied. This is the legal doctrine of estoppel. " Webbink continued:
I make a statement. (Congratulations, on incorporating my company's technology into yours even without a license to my patents.)
You hear the statement, and in reliance on the message the statement conveys rely on the statement to your detriment. (You incorporate the technology and, as a result, allegedly infringe the patents.)
I then try to enforce the patents against you but am barred from doing so under the doctrine of estoppel. (I cannot now deny I encouraged the infringement in the first place or at least led you to believe it was okay.)
To be fair, this isn't the easiest argument to make, but Google has already included it as an exhibit to its defenses.
Now, I am not a lawyer, but if I were a jury and I read Schwartz's blog post I, for one, would find Oracle's arguments about how Google owed me over a billion for their “unauthorized” use of Java's IP hard to swallow. Hopefully, the U.S. District Court will see it the same way and throw this case into the trash heap where it belongs.
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