Is Larry Ellison feeling a little feisty?
Two days after his withering letter to Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) board of directors basically calling them idiots for pushing out Mark Hurd as CEO, Ellison's giant software company Oracle (ORCL) has picked a fight with another of Silicon Valley's most powerful companies: Google (GOOG).
On Thursday, Oracle sued Google in the U.S. District Court for Northern California alleging that Google's Android mobile operating system infringes patents associated with Oracle's Java programming platform. Java is used to write software for devices ranging from smartphones to high-end computer servers.
"In developing Android, Google knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle's Java-related intellectual property. This lawsuit seeks appropriate remedies for their infringement," Oracle spokesperson Karen Tillman said in a statement. (Complaint embedded below.)
Oracle Signals Tough Stance on Java
Ironically, Google CEO Eric Schmidt was instrumental in developing Java for Sun Microsystems when he worked there in the 1980s and early 1990s. Earlier this year, Oracle bought for Sun $7.4 billion -- and with it, the intellectual property behind Java, which is, in fact, used in Android software development.
"I think this showcases a new tougher era for Java and this is something that Google likely should have anticipated because Oracle is aggressive about protecting its patents," says Silicon Valley-based tech analyst Rob Enderle. "It also suggests that any other company that is using this stuff without a license is likely to get a call from Larry's lawyers."
The lawsuit is a direct threat to Google's Android mobile operating system, which is growing like wildfire. The company says that 200,000 Android-equipped phones are sold each day, recently surpassing Apple's (AAPL) iPhone by sheer volume.
Clash of Tech Titans
The conflict could shape up to be a massive battle between two of Silicon Valley's richest and most powerful companies. Google, of course, is a $120 billion behemoth that just spent $100 million to defend itself against Viacom -- a case which continues. And the search giant is sitting on a cash hoard of $26.4 billion.
Oracle is a $115 billion company with cash reserves of $10 billion. And Ellison, of course, is one of the richest men in the world, personally worth about $30 billion, give or take a few billion. Needless to say, both sides can afford a protracted legal battle.
On the other hand, it's entirely possible that the case could be settled out of court -- and if Oracle's claims are strong, Google may be forced to pay a non-trivial amount.
Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
Here's a copy of the complaint, via CNET.
Oracle's complaint against Google for Java patent infringement
Learn the most important step in structuring an investment portfolio.View Course »