Android architect admits “it is likely” he copied Java

Google’s Android mobile operating system may contain code that was copied from Oracle’s proprietary Java codebase, court documents have revealed.

Oracle sued the web giant earlier this year, claiming that Android infringes on Java-related patents it acquired along with Sun Microsystems last year.

During an interview outside of court, Google’s chief Java architect Joshua Bloch was asked whether he remembered accessing the Java codebase while working on a sorting algorithm called TimSort. "I think the similarity of the signature, the fact that, you know, the three arguments are in the same order and have the same name, you know, is a strong indication that it is likely that I did," he replied.

Google argues that it should be allowed to copy such small segments of code, according to the FOSS Patents blog, and that the code in question "implements a mundane function".

Another court filing – an internal presentation document from Google – suggests that the company may grant device makers early access to the latest versions of Android on the condition that they implement it in such away that favours the search giant’s interests

One of the points on a slide entitled "If we give [Android] away, how can we ensure we benefit from it?" is as follows: "Give early access to the software to partners who build and distribute devices to our specification (ie, Motorola and Verizon). They get a non-contractual time to market advantage and in return they align to our standard."

If it is proven that this policy was enacted, it may have implications for Google’s proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Rivals may argue that Google will extended early access to Motorola Mobility, giving it an unfair advantage.

Before these documents came to light, Judge Alsup indicated that he would order the top executives from both companies to participate in mediation. Oracle put forward company president Safra Catz, while Google said it would send Andrew Rubin, the senior vice-president of mobile.

Oracle immediately filed a complaint arguing that Rubin is an inappropriate mediator due both to his intimate connection with the Android OS, and the fact that he does not match Catz in seniority. "Oracle believes the prospects of a successful mediation will be far greater if Google’s executive level representative is a superior to Mr Rubin," it said.

At stake in this dispute is the viability of the Android operating system. Google allows device makers to install Android for free, on the grounds that it will promote use of its search engine and other services. However, if the court rules that device makers must pay royalties to Oracle for using Android, they may become less inclined to do so.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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