Microsoft sues Motorola
Microsoft filed patent infringement complaints against Motorola and its Android phones in the International Trade Commission and U.S. federal court Friday, indicating that the software giant may hope to use its strong patent position as one way to set its mobile software apart from the competition.
Microsoft said that Motorola’s Android phones infringe nine patents, including some that would appear to threaten most smartphone platforms.Android is the open source OS built by Microsoft rival Google.
The patents appear to include some related to Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, which syncs e-mail, calendar and contacts between a mobile phone and a software-based computer program, according to a blog post written by Horacio Gutierrez, general counsel at Microsoft.
Other patents involve technology that displays signal strength and battery power on phones.
While Google licenses Microsoft’s ActiveSync for use in Android, Microsoft may plan to argue that handset makers that add their own technologies to Android also need a license for ActiveSync, said Chris Hazelton, an analyst with The 451 Group. Motorola does add its own enhancements to Android phones.
“Motorola, of the major Android supporters, is the only one that doesn’t license ActiveSync themselves,” Hazelton said. HTC, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Dell and others all license ActiveSync, he said.
Microsoft could also be using the lawsuit as a way to pressure Motorola into building phones using Windows Phone 7, Microsoft’s new phone operating system, Hazelton said. Though Motorola made phones using Microsoft’s operating systems in the past, it now says it is committed to Android.
Motorola may have been unwilling to license ActiveSync because it can be expensive, Hazelton said. “This is not a small amount of money. We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said. Motorola, which is about to split up into several companies, has been struggling over the past few years.
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Oracle Sues Google
Oracle has filed a lawsuit against Google, charging that its Android phone software infringes Oracle patents and copyrights related to Java, Oracle said on Thursday.
“In developing Android, Google knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property. This lawsuit seeks appropriate remedies for their infringement,” Oracle spokeswoman Karen Tillman said in a statement.
The suit was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco and seeks a jury trial.
Google could not immediately reached for comment on the lawsuit.
Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems’ Java technology whenit bought the company earlier this year. Java is a software environment that allows applications written in Java to run on virtually any computer so long as it has a Java virtual machine installed.
When Google developed Android it included a Java compatible technology called Dalvikwith the phone OS. Dalvik was developed as a “clean room” version of Java, meaning Google built it from the ground up without using any Sun technology or intellectual property, said Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney.
“You can’t just take a Java application from a Sun environment, where it’s licensed, and run it on Android. You have to recompile it to Dalvik,” Dulaney said.
Oracle says Dalvik is a competitor to Java and infringes several of its patents, which it lists in the complaint, and its Java copyright.
It was unclear Thursday if Oracle approached Google to discuss its concerns before it filed the lawsuit.
Oracle’s motivation was probably Android’s recent success in the smartphone market, Dulaney said. “They own Sun now and they want to collect the royalties on the language,” he said.
Oracle alleges that Google was aware of its patents and “willfully and deliberately” infringed them. It also says Google hired some of Sun’s Java engineers. It wants the court to block the alleged infringement and award it damages.
Dulaney said Oracle’s case could be “hard to prove” and that a legal battle could take a long time. “What they’ll have to argue about is whether Google did a purely clean-room Java or if they have someone with inside knowledge of the code,” he said.
Dalvik is one option for writing Android applications; developers can also use HTML 5 and the C language. But Dalvik is used for some of the core Android applications, such as email, Dulaney said.
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