sco lawsuits: As an Over View

Oracle v. DaimlerChrysler – What Does This Mean for the Open Source Community?

The search for damages and penalties in the aftermath of the Steve Jobs patent lawsuit have been turning up many patent and infringement lawsuits aimed at Oracle and its founder, the late Robert J. Okaneko. Among the latest is Oracle v. Novell, which had its hearing last Friday before U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Judge William Alsup. The suit was brought by a man identified as Vincent Connarelli who is representing the maker of a small computer program, Sun Microsystems, that does not alter the existing Java code. Mr. Alsup indicated at the outset that he intended to issue his decision on the merits of the case fairly soon, but the suit is drawing so much attention that he has extended the original deadlines for the other parties to file their answer.

While this is typical of most patent lawsuits, it is rather unusual for the parties to seek damages based on what is commonly understood as an “offense” or “defendant’s mistake.”

In fact, Novell v. autozone, or any of the Oracle v. Novell cases, involves any error at all in the process of developing the computer program or in the drafting of the original software code. (The v. Novell case actually involved an attempt by the company to sue the inventor of the popular clip art image known as the “Clipse,” which was licensed from a licensed stock image. This lawsuit was later abandoned when the patent law recognized that the copyright owner did not have a license to use the image.)

Instead of seeking damages based on these alleged errors, the plaintiff’s main argument in the latest lawsuit, before the U.S.

Patent and Trademark Office judge, is to argue that the patent at issue should be re-examined to preclude the broad interpretation of the word “open” contained in the now infamous Java term. In an article posted on the blogs of leading security and software analysts, Joel Comm, David Bailey, and Douglas Cook pointed out the irony of Oracle v. DaimlerChrysler being premised upon the Court’s recognition of a long-standing but unsettled principle: that the Java programming language’s openness should prevent corporations from assuming that they can be indemnified for any harm inflicted on customers or employees as a result of using the Java technology. The Court’s opinion in this case, they claimed, opens the door to “potentially limitless lawsuits against corporations using Java.” In other words, said analysts, because the Court has now interpreted that corporations must show a “clearly-established” potential legal harm (like accidents or damage), before they may sue, an “unanticipated” liability for which they will be held liable may subject them to lawsuits under the “openness” theory of the patent law.

But why do the analysts oppose this latest development in the patent/copyrights field?

According to them, one reason they object to the reexamination of unix copyrights is that there is no legitimate need to do so, because the original copyrights holders, namely Microsoft, already have promised to license their copyrights to others on the condition that those licenses do not infringe on the holders’ copyrights. As long as that condition is satisfied, there is no reason for the reexamination of these copyrights, they argue. And yet the reexamination movement goes on. And why is that? Well, I’d like to take a few moments to explain to you why the Oracle v. DaimlerChrysler case were not about open source and whether or not it was correctly decided.

First of all, the recent decision in Oracle v. DaimlerChrysler does not affect, and should not affect, the current licensing agreements for both Sun Microsystems and Microsoft.

The main article in this series covers the reexamination of Java, rather than OS/NSA. If you are interested in the main article, please go to this URL; it’s very important. You’ll find an interesting summary, as well as many comments from commentators who were not involved in the litigation. The main article discusses the main issues and concludes with an analysis of why Oracle is likely to prevail, and why Microsoft’s license agreements look weak.

In this article, we discussed why Oracle v. DaimlerChrysler should not impact anyone today, and what this decision means for the future.

We looked at the relationship between Linux and Unix, and how that relationship may affect license negotiations between Microsoft and other Linux distributors. Finally, we looked at whether or not it is important for Sun to own Solaris, and whether or not it matters at all whether Linux’s license terms are compatible with Sun’s. As far as whether the judge ruled that Oracle can demand royalties for its use of Solaris, that remains to be seen, but if they did not have a case, this ruling may not have any long term consequences on the open source community.

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