Oracle on Thursday filed a copyright and patent infringement claim against Google over its Android operating system, opening a legal war between the Silicon Valley giants over the fast-growing smartphone software platform.
The lawsuit, filed in Federal court in San Francisco, accuses Google of breaching seven patents that Oracle assumed when it acquired Sun Microsystems earlier this year.
The patents relate to the widely-used Java software, which Sun developed so that developers could write applications that could run on many different operating systems. Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive officer and a former chief technology officer at Sun, once headed the Java development team.
In a statement, Oracle said that Google had “knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property.” Parts of the Java technology were included in the “stack”, or package of software that makes up Android, according to Oracle.
Introduced on phones less than two years ago, Android has grown rapidly to become one of the most widely used smartphone operating systems. It plays a key role in Google’s efforts to ensure its foothold in the mobile world, guaranteeing a channel for its search and advertising services and providing a hedge in case it is ever barred from rival smartphones like the iPhone or BlackBerry.
Android is based on a foundation of open-source software, which is freely distributed and can be used without needing to buy a licence. According to Oracle, however, some key elements of Java have also been added to the operating system.
The lawsuit marks Oracle’s first attempt to exert its rights over Java since it acquired Sun in January. Larry Ellison, chief executive officer, justified the Sun acquisition largely on the grounds that it brought Oracle control of Java.
Many mobile and other technology companies pay relatively small amounts to licence Java to run on large numbers of devices, and there were concerns in some quarters when Oracle bought Sun that it would seek to wring more money from its control of the software.