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Oracle asks for billions, 15 percent of Android ad revenue, in lawsuit

by Phil Hornshaw

Oracle is suing Google for patent infringement, alleging that Google stole code from the Java programming language in creating aspects of its Android platform. That seems like a reasonable situation – tech companies sue each other all the time. But then there’s what Oracle is asking in patent infringement damages: something in the ballpark of, oh, let’s say $1.4 billion to $6.1 billion. If you don’t mind.

That’s according to a story from Fierce Mobile Content, and actually that figure comes from an expert called by Oracle to weigh-in on the patent situation and assess what Oracle is owed, should it win the case. And actually, the information about the figure comes in a letter from Google’s attorneys to the judge on the case.

Oracle is actually claiming about $2.6 billion in damages, not the $6.1 billion its expert said it could be owed. Its latest filings are asking for $0.9 billion to $1.4 billion up front, plus 15 percent of Google’s Android ad revenues, which Google has said operates at a run rate of $1 billion each year. Meanwhile, Google’s lawyers call the figures “breathtaking” and “out of proportion with any meaningful measures of the intellectual property at issue.”

That property, by the way, is code found in Java that Oracle alleges Google lifted to build portions of Android. Not all the infringements are delineated in the complaint, it seems, but one example of code Oracle says is stolen is found in Android’s in-app purchasing platform, which Oracle says is basically a stolen version of the same thing in Java. Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, and with it, Java and its patents, in April 2009.

In its June 6 letter sent by Google lawyers to U.S. District Judge William Aslup, Google says “that even the low end of the range ‘is over 10 times the amount that Sun Microsystems Inc. made each year for the entirety of its Java licensing program and 20 times what Sun made for Java-based mobile licensing,’” according to the Fierce story.

But those numbers are pretty significant, as patent activist Florian Mueller points out on his blog, and losing could mean Google would need to totally rework aspects of the Android platform, including Dalvik, the virtual machine software that is integral to many apps running on the platform.

If Oracle is victorious, then, Google might have to return to the drawing board on big chunks of Android, and that would have a major effect on smartphone owners in the future. And that’s to say nothing of the financial hurt Oracle could put on Google.