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Oracle sues Google for copyright and patent infringement

Jury selection for an intellectual property suit between two technology heavy-hitters began on April 16. The case, which is being tried before a federal court in California, involves Oracle Corp. and Google, with Oracle accusing Google of copyright and patent infringement. It is seeking $1 billion in damages as well as an injunction to prevent Google from further distributing the popular Android mobile operating system.

The heart of the matter concerns the development of the Android system. Oracle is alleging that Google improperly used Java in developing Android. Java is an Oracle-owned product that allows for developers to easily write programs for use on any computer. It specifically says that Google infringed on two patents, as well as infringed on the copyright Oracle holds on a technology known as application programming interfaces (APIs).

However, Google contends that the Java APIs are an idea, not an expression. This distinction is important. While expressions can be copyrighted under federal law, ideas cannot. As such, Google claims that it did not infringe any copyright as no copyright existed in the first place.

Settling this dispute may not be easy, with settlement negotiations already falling through twice. Concerning the patent infringement claim, Oracle previously brought a claim against Google in 2010, claiming that the search engine giant infringed on seven of its patents. As the case takes sharper focus, though, that number has been dwindled down to two, and one expert appointed by the court in California estimates that the patent infringement is worth only about $2.8 million in damages. Nonetheless, a company owes a duty to its shareholders to vigorously protect its intellectual property as well as to protect itself against allegations of infringement.

Source: The Washington Post, “Google and Oracle to face off in court in intellectual property case,” Karen Gullo, April 16, 2012

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