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Oracle v. Google: This One Could Get Interesting

by Brian Prentice  |  August 13, 2010  |  3 Comments

Ho hum, another day, another patent infringement suit. I’m becoming de-sensitized.

And we all know the cycle by now. File infringement action, issue press release, enter cone of silence while negotiations take place, work out cross license agreement, issue press release, provide no further detail.

But with news of Oracle’s patent and copyright infringement action against Google one thing strikes me as different. Oracle is not a company that has made a sport out of pursuing cross-licensing agreements off the back of infringement actions like Microsoft has. The most notable example was their action against Alcatel-Lucent which was settled before a trial. Besides that, there’s not much else in the way of other offensive patent actions.

But there’s another case that might be more relevant here. Oracle v. SAP – specifically the action they took after SAP had purchased 3rd party Peoplesoft/JDEdwards support provider TomorrowNow.

Why is this relevant?. First off, Oracle’s primary issue was copyright infringement – TomorrowNow was using Oracle’s copyrighted material in order to provide support at significantly lower prices to Oracle customers. Oracle clearly had no intention of working out a deal with SAP. Instead they hammered them in court. That resulted in SAP shutting down TomorrowNow and losing their investment.

But that’s not all. Just last week SAP made a legal filing agreeing that they were prepared to pay Oracle tens of millions of dollars in compensation. Oracle’s view? Nice try, but we’re looking for BILLIONS of dollars in damages.

So before we write off Oracle’s action against Google as another attempt to obtain a tidy little license agreement let’s realize that we could be dealing with an IP pit bull here. If Oracle sees Android as being as much a strategic threat to their business as TomorrowNow was, then this has a higher probability of making its way to the courts than your average infringement action.

If it does, and if they prevail, then look out Google!


Brian Prentice
Research VP
9 years at Gartner
26 years IT industry

Brian Prentice is a research vice president and focuses on emerging technologies and trends with an emphasis on those that impact an organization's software and application strategy... Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Oracle v. Google: This One Could Get Interesting

  1. Jeremy Parsons says:

    Interesting indeed! Pretty much the norm in mobile devices is the Tweedledum/Tweedledee licensing-oriented action. Java has been the prevalent middleware for featurephone type mobile devices and a second string for smartphones. But the implementations almost never went anywhere ambitious, and now Java in the mobile and on the desktop are looking tired.

    So it’s a happy day for Oracle if it can lassoo the bolting horse Android. A financial settlement or/and a licensing agreement could put Oracle at the heart of the smartphone revolution.

    With Microsoft losing the mobile wars and dashing to build credentials in the cloud, Oracle is starting to look very interesting.

  2. Oracle’s patent aggression against Google raises serious questions. Is Java now less open than C#? Did Oracle try to reach an agreement with Google on a license deal or is Oracle pursuing purely destructive objectives? What is the Open Invention Network good for if one licensee (Oracle) can sue another (Google) over patents in a Linux context? Where are they now — all those FOSS advocates who said Oracle should be allowed to buy Sun? How will this affect Oracle’s and Google’s joint lobbying (alongside IBM) for “open standards” in the EU if Oracle treats Java as the opposite of an open standard?

    I raise those and other issues on my blog:

  3. I question Oracle’s motives, especially after their history over the past 5 years of buying up company after company. I don’t know about you, but it kinda looks like they trying really hard to become the big boy in town. This recent move could just be an example of them exerting the influence that they think they have now.

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