Oracle, mobile vendor in Java legal battle

Oracle and Swiss mobile platform vendor Myriad Group are exchanging accusations, but is Google involved?

Oracle and Swiss mobile software platform vendor Myriad Group are locked in a legal battle over Java licensing issues, one with an apparent connection to Google.

Myriad filed suit against Oracle on Dec. 10 in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, alleging that Oracle was overcharging it for the use of Java in its products.

The dispute stems from the Java Community Process and the related Java Specification Participation Agreement, which were started by Sun Microsystems, a company Oracle acquired early this year.

Sun formed the JCP in order to get the help of independent companies in developing Java for various uses, while ensuring the language remained standardized and cross-compatible.

"By signing the JSPA, a company joined the JCP and licensed its IP rights to the other members, receiving reciprocal licenses in return," Myriad's complaint states. "These licenses were granted both so that the contracting parties could develop new [Java Specification Requests] in cooperation with each other, and so that they individually could develop software that conformed to those specifications."

Under the agreement, Sun was supposed to license "certain of [its] intellectual property (IP) rights applicable to Java, either royalty-free or on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms," the complaint adds. "Sun has consistently failed to honor those licenses."

In addition, Myriad maintains it has never used code from HotSpot, one of two Java virtual machines developed by Sun and now Oracle. But Myriad was required to enter a Sun Community Source License for use of Sun's HotSpot code, according to the complaint. Sun imposed "unfair, unreasonable and discriminatory royalty-based terms" and also required Myriad to sign a master support agreement, it adds.

Myriad is seeking at least $US120 million, representing an amount "Sun has wrongfully demanded and received from Myriad and its customers," as well as other damages.

Oracle filed a suit against Myriad on the same day in US District for the Northern District of California.

Neither Sun or Oracle have "unconditionally granted rights under its intellectual property to use or implement the Java technology without restriction," it states. Companies that want to distribute Java must first make sure their implementations pass a series of tests, provided by Oracle's TCKs (technology compatibility kits).

Myriad's predecessor, Esmertec, signed license agreements with Sun in 2002 for use of the Connected Limited Device Configuration and Mobile Information Device Profile 2.0, which required it to pay royalties, Oracle said.

The companies formed other licensing agreements in 2003, 2006 and June 2009, the complaint adds.

But later that year, Myriad "demanded that it be provided new licensing terms under the JSPA," Oracle said. "In December 2009, Myriad informed Oracle for the first time that it was 'working under the JSPA' and 'that its independent implementations, as such do not require the commercial licenses but are to be granted royalty-free.'"

Myriad also signed a Master Support Agreement with Sun in 2002 that gave it access to the appropriate TCKs, Oracle said. That agreement expired on June 29 and has not been renewed. Myriad was supposed to stop using "all technical information and any source code" provided to it under the agreement once it expired, Oracle said.

Meanwhile, Myriad's action has a connection to Oracle's higher-profile intellectual property lawsuit against Google regarding the Android mobile operating system. One of the attorneys representing Myriad, Scott Weingaertner, is also representing Google in the Oracle case.

Myriad is also a member of the Open Handset Alliance, the industry coalition formed to help develop Android. Oracle alleges that Android infringes on a number of Java patents.

The tie-in was flagged on Tuesday by Florian Mueller, an outspoken advocate on open-source legal issues.

"It's easy to see how Myriad's complaint is in Google's interest," Mueller wrote in an e-mail. "If Myriad succeeded, it might lower the license fees Oracle is allowed to charge for Java, and even though Oracle might still have legitimate reasons for denying Google a license on such terms or on any terms, a potential settlement between Oracle and Google would not be entirely detached from what Oracle charges other Java licensees."

Google and Weingaertner did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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Tags application developmentLanguages and standardstelecommunicationapplicationsSun MicrosystemsCivil lawsuitssoftwaremobileMyriadOracleGoogleintellectual propertylegal

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