Java watchers saw a fair bit of Java-related news late last week. First, as Oracle's legal case with Google over the search engine's possible infringement of Java in Android moved forward, the judge appeared to side with Oracle. Second, open source Java-based content management Jease achieved its 2.0 release.
First, let's look at the legal situation. U.S. District Judge William Alsup made a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of certain patent terms in the case. Looking at five technical terms at issue in the case, Alsup agreed with Oracle's interpretation of four of those terms, and wrote his own for the fifth. The disputed terms appear in three of the seven patents that Oracle claims Google violated.
In one sense, a definition of terms is no more than the setting of ground rules – and since this ruling is preliminary, the judge could always change his mind. On the other hand, patent cases and their resolution often hinge on the court-accepted definitions of specific terms used in the claims. Defining those terms is referred to as “claim construction,” and some observers of the case have noted that whoever is able to get their definitions used in claim construction – in this case, Oracle – wins an edge. According to the Patent Hawk website, “claim construction usually determines two root issues of every patent case: whether the plaintiff has a valid claim, and whether the defendant infringed the patent.”
Oracle filed suit against Google in August of last year, claiming that the search engine's Android mobile operating system infringes certain Java patents and copyrights. Oracle acquired this intellectual property when it purchased Sun Microsystems back in April of 2009. Google previously attempted to get Oracle's copyright infringement claims thrown out, but failed. To some observers, this latest preliminary ruling represents another setback for Google.
In the larger picture of the case as a whole, however, it still appears to be too early to tell how it will play out. Both sides have until Friday of this week (May 6) to critique the judge's decision. We'll see how matters go in November, when the case is expected to finally go to trial.