Java founder condemns Sun-Kodak patent settlement

'The whole case was a complete atrocity,' says James Gosling, who warns that the way patents are being used is 'ridiculous'

The father of Java -- James Gosling -- has called the recent court case between Sun and Eastman Kodak over patents "a complete atrocity".

As part of an out-of-court settlement of the case, Sun agreed to pay Eastman Kodak $92m dollars to license the patents, which Kodak acquired in 1997 from Wang Laboratories "You know this is one of these things where I shouldn't say too much other than that the whole case was a complete atrocity. One of these days we need to write up a pretty thorough account of what happened during the case, but it really opened up my eyes to patents and the American legal system... it was quite bizarre," Gosling told ZDNet UK sister site Builder AU.

In November, Sun chief executive officer Scott McNealy told Builder AU that the Kodak patent case was an example of the company "taking a bullet" to protect its end-users.

"Customers need to use a software provider with cash in the bank, who protects and indemnifies them and will look out for their interests," McNealy said.

"A lot of people argue that software patents are a misapplied art, but what the heck -- there can be lots of folks out there that don't have another way of making money. Kodak, like we all know, are hardly the model of profitability and strategic positioning right now," McNealy added.

While Gosling is a believer in intellectual property and patents, he believes "the way they are being used today is ridiculous," underlying a growing outcry among the development community worldwide of the threat to innovation presented by software patents.

This year 3,700 developers in Australia signed a petition against the Australia-US Free trade agreement, which said they "fear the effects of committing to the lower standard of patents of the widely criticised US Patent and Trademark Office".

In Europe the EU has postponed its decision to make software patentable. A group of software companies including MySQL and Red Hat have launched a Web site protesting against software patents in Europe.