Technology Firms ‘Can Learn From Google’s Android IP Legal Battle’

Lawyer Comments On Implications Of High-Profile Case

19.04.2012

The importance of an early risk assessment of the potential for infringement of intellectual property rights and the subsequent use of clear license agreements has been underlined by the high-profile legal battle underway between internet giant Google and Oracle, according to a specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell.

A trial in the US is looking to determine whether Google violated Oracle’s intellectual property rights in relation to how Google’s Android mobile operating system interacts with Oracle’s Java programming language. Java is best known for allowing one set of code to run programs across a number of electronic devices.

The case, which could have significant implications for the search engine giant, is largely focused on the company’s use of application programming interfaces – or APIs – and how these interact with Java to allow developers to write Java-compatible code for its Android mobile operating system.

It comes following a series of high-profile disputes which have put the issue of intellectual property rights in the technology sector in the spotlight, including a case in which Apple alleged that Samsung had violated its rights in relation to the technology in its Samsung Galaxy Tab device.

James Wellburn, a solicitor at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office who specialises in issues related to commercial litigation and intellectual property, said there was much for businesses in the technology sector to learn from this kind of case.

He outlined: “The case between Google and Oracle should go some way to providing clarity to software developers in relation to the legal issues they need to bear in mind when developing mobile applications specifically for Android.

“It could also potentially impact on which companies choose to make use of Java and, depending on the ruling, may even mean that Google could have to alter its Android mobile operating system.

“However, there are also wider issues that this case raises, notably that technology companies should always seek quality advice at the earliest possible stage to assess whether there is any risk of their products infringing existing intellectual property rights.

“In addition, if technology companies want to make use of existing intellectual property rights, they should also ensure that they enter into clear and carefully drafted licence agreements which meet their needs.”

James added that such cases are unlikely to discourage many major firms from looking to acquire patents in an effort to protect themselves against future intellectual property litigation.

He explained: “Microsoft’s recent acquisition of patents from AOL demonstrates how companies are presently looking to bolster their existing intellectual property portfolios to reduce the risk of future litigation concerning intellectual property rights.

“This is a strategy which isn’t available to all companies however and many would be in a stronger position if they received professional advice from the outset to minimise the risk of infringement.”