updated 08:30 pm EST, Sun January 23, 2011
Android phone makers caught spreading Oracle Java
Further investigation by Florian Mueller has found that key Android phone manufacturers are sharing the allegedly copied Oracle code from Java. Online source code distributions for Motorola's Droid Pro and other Droid models, LG's Ally and Optimus models, and Samsung's Galaxy devices (including the Galaxy Tab) all have at least some of the code. The devices don't necessarily include the potentially patent infringing code in the on-device version, but their existence on the phone designers' respective sites may by itself be enough for legal trouble, Mueller said.
Some other companies, including Dell and HTC, don't have the disputed files. They may not necessarily have been aware of the possible risk, but the omission is considered unusual. Those who do have the code may also have been unaware but could still unintentionally have supported Oracle's case against Google.
Mueller went on to rebut claims that the code was strictly attached to test files that wouldn't have been used for production purposes. The code is general security code that could easily be used for production hardware, he said. Regardless of how or if the code is being used elsewhere, its very presence in an official capacity might be ruled as infringing by a judge.
The exploration if touched on by Oracle could have major ramifications for Google by further supporting Oracle's accusations of copying and by putting some of the blame on phone manufacturers for helping distribute the code, although whether or not they'd be held legally liable isn't certain. Google hasn't responded to the wave of accusations so far but, in court, has accused Oracle of misrepresenting code to improve its case.
Oracle if successful in its lawsuit could force Google to pay royalties for the use of Java-related code in every Android 2.2 device shipped or else force a code change to avoid any legal challenges. Google is already facing indirect patent challenges from Apple and Microsoft through lawsuits against phone manufacturers.