In the wake of a sweeping patent-infringement lawsuit in which Oracle claims that Google "knowingly, directly, and repeatedly infringed Oracle's Java-related intellectual property" in the creation of the Android smartphone OS, an open-source advocate has broadened the claims to include code theft. This theft supports Oracle's case against Google, the advocate says, and he's providing the evidence to Oracle so that it may present it in court.
Oracle sued Google in August 2010, claiming that the online giant infringed on several Oracle patents, most of which are related to the Java programming language that Google used to create Android. The patents were originally the property of Sun Microsystems, which invented Java; Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems earlier in 2010.
Late last week, open-source advocate Florian Mueller wrote in a blog post that he has uncovered several examples of outright code theft in Android's source code. "I have ... found six more files \\[in addition to an earlier find\\] ... that show the same pattern of direct copying," he wrote. "In addition, I have identified 37 files marked as 'PROPRIETARY/CONFIDENTIAL' by Sun and a copyright notice file that says: 'DO NOT DISTRIBUTE'. Unless Google obtained a license to that code (which is unlikely given the content and tone of those warnings), this constitutes another breach."
Mueller documents his findings in several PDF files that detail each element of code theft in the Android source code. "Things will only get worse for Google when the court takes a look at the complete files," he wrote. "Oracle has not even presented the tip of the iceberg in its amended complaint. The discovery process could be very fruitful for Oracle, and may become dreadful for Google."
In a separate post, Mueller also documents that Google illegally relicensed Oracle's Java files to Android device makers, another legal issue that the online giant will need to defend. LG, Motorola, and Samsung are named as recipients of this code.
Several bloggers have tried to discredit Mueller's discoveries, but I find Mueller's retorts to be more credible. As he told The Register, "\\[The alleged copied code\\] is really about the Android team's credibility, its approach to intellectual property issues. This looks arrogant, reckless, aggressive. What does it imply about the team's overall approach?"
Few would be surprised to discover that a company as fast-moving as Google could have missed something as tiny and misunderstood as licensing terms in source code files. But it does raise a wider issue of how Google can stomp on smaller firms and get away with it, while pushing its broader agenda of tech domination. Does Oracle have a case? This may need to go to trial before we really find out.