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 way.

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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