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Oracle and the American Patent System

The future of Android lays in Google’s hands the Supreme Court debates whether or not the Android Open Source Project infringes on Oracle’s patents over its Java platform. Although Oracle and Google have been sparring for years over this issue, Oracle has gained the upper hand in the past year after a victory in an appeals court. The topic of conflict, the APIs (application programming interfaces) and software structures utilized in Android, is a widely used concept that is used in most platforms and software today. Should Oracle be successful in its lawsuit, not only would the development and distribution of Android be put into jeopardy, but other technology companies, both large and small, would be open for further lawsuits.

Lawsuits such as this demonstrate how inadequately equipped the American patent system is to deal with the so-called information age that we live in. During the infancy of this age, large companies such as Oracle rushed to patent essential software and procedures used in information exchange.

The worst part of these patents is that they are not easily invalidated, even if they are abstract enough to no longer qualify for copyright protection. Thus, companies called “patent trolls,” organizations that hoarded information patents and made money by charging royalties from other businesses instead of actually making products, have risen as formidable enemies of the startups and  giants of Silicon Valley alike. While companies such as Google and Apple have pushed to eradicate patent trolls, the American justice system still have trouble drawing the line between what software is patentable and what is too general.

Due to this conflict’s potential to stifle the growth of the technology-based economies nationwide, the U.S. government is trying to pass policies to discourage patent trolling and the approval for protection of ill-defined ideas and works. However, its progress is too slow to save Android if Google does not gain the favor of the Supreme Court.

Written by Raymond Cao’17


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