Welcome to the Google-Oracle patent circus

The two tech giants are slugging it out over Java in a San Francisco courtroom, but it's hardly the Greatest Show on Earth

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Why didn't Google just buy Sun? Probably because the Googlers didn't think they needed to. In November 2007, then Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz published a blog post congratulating Google on the debut of its new "Java/Linux phone platform, Android."

That post has since been flushed down the memory hole by Oracle, but not before Groklaw saved a copy. Schwartz also wrote: "Google and the Open Handset Alliance just strapped another set of rockets to [Sun's] momentum."

Turns out that was actually a bomb, not a rocket. It's so easy to confuse the two.

Oracle's suit may be a smart business decision, but it's bankrupt in every other way. Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought the patent system was created to encourage innovators by protecting them and their inventions, not for making fat cats fatter. Certainly, I am not cut out to be a patent attorney.

This is the patent insanity we find ourselves in today. Apple vs. Samsung, Facebook vs. Yahoo, Microsoft vs. Google -- the list of tech giants suing other tech giants over tech patents is growing, and that's not even including suits filed by patent trolls.

One small ray of hope comes from an unlikely source: Twitter. Yesterday it unveiled its Innovator's Patent Agreement, in which the microblog vows that it will only use the patents in its portfolio to defend itself from patent attacks from other companies. The IPA also allows Twitter to go after alleged patent violators if the creator of the technology in question allows it. Even better, the IPA travels with the patent -- so if Twitter is finally acquired by Google or Facebook (which seems inevitable to me), those rules would still apply.

That plan has already been endorsed by VCs like Fred Wilson, who say they will only fund startups if they agree to follow Twitter's lead.

Is there finally light at the end of the patent tunnel? Maybe, but only if the biggest companies in tech sit down and agree to end the madness. In the meantime, you might as well grab a bag of peanuts, sit back, and enjoy the show. But steer clear of the patent attorney chimps -- they bite.

Who will win, Oracle or Google? Cast your votes below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "Welcome to the Google-Oracle patent circus," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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