Google/Oracle Lawsuit

What Do Oracle Want?

Jessica Thornsby

After the news broke that Oracle have filed a lawsuit against Google and Android, bloggers have debated whether this controversial move is really just about the money.

What do Oracle want?

Clearly, it isn’t to appease the developer community! The
announcement that Oracle have filed a lawsuit against Google has
been met with widespread condemnation from the community.

The most obvious motivation is financial gain. Google may be
able to rewrite elements of the Android platform to avoid any
further copyright infringement, but – if Oracle wins – Google will
still be liable to cough up for the copies of Android already in
the wild.

Andy Updegrove looks to Oracle’s previous moves post-acquisition, in
order to validate the notion of a lawsuit motivated hugely by
financial gain. Recently, Oracle began charging license fees for
its OpenOffice compatibility plugin, and Updegrove sees a pattern
of behaviour emerging in the OpenOffice plugin and the Google
lawsuit. “Oracle may simply be taking a bean counter’s approach to
it’s acquisition,” he concludes.

Stephen Shankland translates this “bean counter’s approach” into projected
figures. He places the cost of the acquisition at six and a half
billion, and then predicts the money Oracle would acquire from a
successful Google lawsuit to be roughly the same as Sun gained from
the Microsoft Java settlement. “The cost of Sun becomes four
billion,” he writes, which could go a long way to explaining
Oracle’s motivation.

Andy Updegrove takes this one step further, wondering whether
there could also be an indirect economic motivation behind the
lawsuit. Google could be moving towards threatening Oracle’s future
business strategy, or perhaps are already threatening it in some

But what if it isn’t all about money? According to Taylor Buley,
the location of the suit is very telling as, if
Oracle were truly after money, their best bet would have been to
file suit in the Eastern District of Texas. This district is part
of the copyright-friendly Fifth Circuit, and the jurors are known
to hand out large sums of money for these type of lawsuits.
However, Oracle filed the lawsuit in Northern California.

So, what does Buley think Oracle is after? He’s placing his bet
on an out-of-court cross-licensing deal that would benefit some
mysterious new Oracle business plan. Stephen O’Grady speculates that, if this is the case, then a
cross-licensing agreement would be unlikely to have anything to do
with Android. He theories that “patents like this “Large-scale data
processing in a distributed and parallel processing enviornment” or
this “Information extraction from a database” (would) be relevant
to Oracle’s core businesses .”

Whatever Oracle are after, the risks of this lawsuit are
potentially very high indeed. Oracle is ultimately dependent on the
Java ecosystem and, in Stephen O’Grady’s opinion, crucial to Java’s
continued success is the notion of freedom from vendors. Oracle
filing a lawsuit against the Java technology in Android, could
shatter this illusion of freedom and cause developers to shy away
from participating in the Java ecosystem in the future. And, what’s
bad for the Java ecosystem, is ultimately bad for Oracle. Maybe, in
filing the lawsuit, Oracle are only hurting themselves.

Clearly, when there’s a risk of alienating the Java community
and damaging the ecosystem, whatever Oracle truly want from the
acquisition, must be crucial to their operation.

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