Google copied Java in Android, expert says

24 January, 2011 by Nancy Gohring
AAA
News

An intellectual property expert has uncovered 43 instances where it appears that Google copied Java code without permission in the most recent versions of the Android operating system.

The discovery could challenge Google’s defense in a dispute with Oracle over Java patents and copyright material in Android.

“The discovery process could be very fruitful for Oracle, and may become dreadful for Google,” wrote Florian Mueller, who has been closely following the case and founded the NoSoftwarePatents campaign, in a blog post.

Mueller has closely examined the Android code and found six files, in addition to one that Oracle pointed out in its complaint, that are nearly identical to Java files. The files are found in Froyo, which is Android 2.2, and Gingerbread, Android 2.3.

In addition, Mueller points to 37 files in the Android code that include notices that say the code is proprietary to Sun.

“No matter what Google says, that copyright header is anything but a permission to re-license the file under the Apache Software License,” Mueller wrote. Google licenses Android to users under the Apache license. “Even if one claimed that Oracle/Sun later made the file available under the GPL (for which I haven’t found any conclusive evidence), that wouldn’t allow such a license change either.”

While there are some minor differences between the code that Google is using and the original Java code, Mueller found that the differences come from the use of a decompiler. When he used a Java decompiler called JAD and decompiled seven different Java files, he found that the result was nearly identical to files found in Android.

Google did not reply to a request for comment about Mueller’s allegations.

Oracle filed the lawsuit in August, claiming that Google’s Android operating system infringes on Java copyrights that Oracle acquired when it bought Sun. Google has called the suit baseless, denying infringement.

If Google is found to infringe, it could be required to pay Oracle a licensing fee for each handset made that uses Android. It could pass that cost on to device vendors, but that would diminish the attractiveness of Android as a free operating system.

Android, which has grown dramatically in popularity over the past year, is under legal attack from many companies. Other Android-related lawsuits include Apple’s suit against HTC; Microsoft’s suit against Motorola; and Gemalto’s suit against Google, Motorola, HTC and Samsung.

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