As Android products have seen an increasing rise in popularity among the tech-savvy, whether it be businessmen or students in masters degree programs, the open-sourced platform has also seen a sharp climb in the number of lawsuits from companies alleging that Android's developer, Google, has taken too many liberties with what software it considers to be "fair use."
2012 has marked the first time that Android has beaten Apple's iPhone in sales and usage since its launch in 2008, which many analysts have stated is due in no small part to Android's use of open source technology. Where Apple strictly regulates what can be modified within iPhone OS, as well as limiting which apps can be used and purchased for the device, Android relies instead on users to introduce their own software and applications.
However, some of the code used in Android OS has been alleged as less open source than what Google has claimed, and companies are beginning to allege that the platform's success is due to copyright infringement and intellectual property theft.
One of the more noteworthy cases, a suit filed by Oracle in regards to Google's use of their Java scripting language, came to a ruling on May 30. Oracle had alleged that Android OS relied on 37 Java APIs that Google had "stolen" by not obtaining a license for their use. Google countered the claims by saying that the APIs were essential to use Java at all, which is itself a free programming language, thus rendering use of the APIs as free as well.
Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court of Northern California ruled in favor of Google, declaring that the 37 APIs were not copyrightable at all. Alsup's ruling stated the following:
"When there is only one way to express an idea or function, then everyone is free to do so and no one can monopolize that expression. And, while the Android method and class names could have been different from the names of their counterparts in Java and still have worked, copyright protection never extends to names or short phrases as a matter of law."
Oracle plans to appeal the ruling.
While certainly a large victory for Google, this is only one of many court cases currently faced by the software giant. Following Google's acquisition of Motorola, Microsoft has sued the cell phone manufacturer for numerous alleged copyright violations as well.
Among these lawsuits is a claim made in Germany that Google had violated Microsoft's patent named "communicating multi-part messages between cellular devices using a standardised interface," which allows for the sending and receiving long text messages in parts, was ruled in Microsoft's favor on May 25. Microsoft may now order a ban on Motorala products within Germany, although it is believed that they would prefer a licensing fee.
Google has fired back with an antitrust complaint made to the European Commission, claiming that Microsoft and its partner in cell phone production, Nokia, were attempting to bully competition through litigation.
"Nokia and Microsoft are colluding to raise the costs of mobile devices for consumers, creating patent trolls that side-step promises both companies have made," said a statement released by Google.
Microsoft responded in kind, claiming that Google were using a "desperate tactic" to justify it's patent violations.
While it is unclear what this complaint will amount to, it's safe to say this won't be the last lawsuit we see between Google and Microsoft.
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