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Android found to contain copied Java code

Back in August, Oracle filed a patent infringment suit against Google, claiming that the open source Android operating system violated several Oracle patents by including proprietary technology from Sun Microsystems’s Java implementation. Now, IP activist Florian Mueller has outlined several instances in the Android source where Google appears to have copied Java source code outright and included it in Android…all the way down to notices that the files are confidential and not to be redistributed.

Mueller’s 46-page analysis (available as PDF files) details instances that seem to support Oracle’s claims against Google, including cases where Google apparently derived source files using a decompiler and made meaningless changes to source files (such as in comments or immaterial line ordering). Mueller also notes nearly 40 instances where Google included files with clear Sun/Oracle copyright notices that, Mueller asserts, could not be legally be redistributed under Android’s Apache license.

Google’s initial response to Oracle’s suit was surprisingly weak-chinned, offering virtually no evidence to support its defense theories. Google has also not countersued Oracle on its claims, a move which would be typical for gaining leverage in a patent battle.

If Google is found guilt of infringement in this case, the impact on the broader Android community could be considerable: instead of an open source operating system that any device manufacturer could use, Android could become a mobile operating system controlled under licensing burdens from Oracle.

If the discoveries bear fruit—and Mueller is not a party to the case—the results could reflect very badly on Google and have wide-ranging implications for the broader Android community. Android is already the target (direct or indirect) in a number of intellectual property suits, including a high-profile spat between Apple and HTC, as well as suits against Google by Interval Licensing and Gemalto. Numerous suits have been filed against Android device makers: Microsoft and Motorola are going at it (as are Apple and Motorola), and two Android device makers are even suing each other: LG and Sony have recently crossed swords. A major patent cloud hanging over the Android operating system could dissuade developers and device manufacturers from using the platform…and potentially curb its success just as Android is gaining market momentum.