Oracle claims that Google has violated several of its Java patents and copyrights- with the copyright trial in San Francisco starting today.
But it is not just money that is at stake.
If Oracle wins it’s copyright claims it could force Google to alter Android – a move which is likely to mean independent software developers would also have to recode apps designed for the platform.
Java was first released in 1995 and allows software to be run across computer platforms, rather than just being limited to one type of operating system.
Oracle inherited the intellectual properties when it took over Java’s original developer, Sun Microsystems, in 2009.
The language is used by many business applications as well as other software on computers and smartphones.
Oracle argues that by using its intellectual property, and then giving Android away for free, Google undermined the possibility of it licensing Java to mobile phone makers.
It adds: “Because Android exploits Java but is not fully compatible with it, Android represents Sun’s, and now Oracle’s, nightmare: an incompatible forking of the Java platform, which undermines the fundamental ‘write once, run anywhere’ premise of Java that is so critical to its value and appeal.”
Much of the case does not centre on Google’s use of Java itself – which is free for anyone to use without licence – but rather the Android-maker’s use of 37 APIs (application programming interfaces) which allow developers to write Java-compatible code.
APIs allow different parts of a programme to communicate together as well as letting one application share content with another.
Oracle alleges that 103,400 lines of its API specifications appeared on Android’s developer website.
But engineers say they have more fundamental concerns about the precedent that could be set in what is already a lawsuit prone industry.
If Oracle wins it’s case it could mean that many third party computer and smartphone software programs may have to be withdrawn to comply with the new copyright regime.