Oracle's Android lawsuit: A Pandora's box of serious evils

A deeper look at Oracle's legal claims show how an Oracle win or a Google give-in could destroy Android and even open source

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Oracle's drastic damage claims are for show
Oracle's desired relief is drastic: not just permanent injunctions, but destruction of all copies that violate copyright (thus, wiping all Android devices), plus triple damages and legal costs. Also, it demands a jury trial.

This is basically saber-rattling. Oracle might as well add "and a pony." No court will ever grant all of that, not even at a jury trial in the Northern District of California. Oracle couldn't even get that kind of relief from the notorious East Texas court.

In the event that Oracle prevails, some fraction of what it asks might be granted. But an appeal by Google in that event is a complete certainty, and the court would most likely delay any injunctive relief pending the outcome of the appeal.

Should Google win on appeal, Oracle would then have the option of appealing to the Supreme Court. However, if it goes that far, there is a significant possibility that the Supreme Court would decide to invalidate all software process patents -- which would be a very good outcome. That possibility alone might be enough to stop Oracle from taking the case all the way.

How Google might settle the case
All this will cost a fortune. Could Google cut the legal dispute short cheaply? Yes, and it has two options: a cash settlement or cross-licensing.

But settling may cause more damage to the industry, even if it helps Google. If Google were to settle out of court for cash, that would open the door for Oracle to go after HTC, Motorola, Samsung, other device manufacturers, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, other carriers, and eventually all large companies known to use Android devices. That would be a disaster for the entire mobile industry.

It might be OK if Google were to settle out of court through a perpetual cross-licensing agreement with Oracle. In that case, I hope that Google would also indemnify all Android licensees and users against future action as part of the settlement.

Some of my colleagues have called for open source developers to immediately fork any Sun-derived open source projects, to make them less susceptible to Oracle infringment claims. But I'm not sure that goes far enough to do any good.

Fight "the man" where it hurts!
If I were as radical now as I was at 20, I'd be calling for a worldwide boycott of Oracle products, as this suit is the equivalent of dropping a neutron bomb on the open source movement. César Chavez's grape boycott of the late 1960s would have nothing on a boycott of Oracle products.

Think about it: Oracle database licensees could move to IBM DB2 or Microsoft SQL Server. MySQL users could move to Monty Widenius' fork of MySQL or to Postgres. Oracle Forms and Oracle Web Forms users could move to Alpha Five. Oracle ERP users could move to offerings from SAP, Microsoft, or Sage. There's more, but you get the idea.

Are you ready to vote with your wallet?

This story, "Oracle's Android lawsuit: A Pandora's box of serious evils," was originally published at Get the first word on important tech news with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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