Oracle wasn’t always a patent troll

Aug 17, 2010

Times have changed since Larry Ellison's company officially 'opposed the patentability of software'.

A lot of information is coming out of the woodwork now that Oracle (orcl) is suing Google (goog) for patent infringement.  One of many gems comes from GroklawOracle's 1994 patent policy as presented in testimony at USPTO hearings that year (emphasis mine):

Oracle Corporation opposes the patentability of software. The Company believes that existing copyright law and available trade secret protections, as opposed to patent law, are better suited to protecting computer software developments.

Patent law provides to inventors an exclusive right to new technology in return for publication of the technology. This is not appropriate for industries such as software development in which innovations occur rapidly, can be made without a substantial capital investment, and tend to be creative combinations of previously-known techniques...

Unfortunately, as a defensive strategy, Oracle has been forced to protect itself by selectively applying for patents which will present the best opportunities for cross-licensing between Oracle and other companies who may allege patent infringement.

"Situational Ethics" is the term being thrown around Oracle's change of heart.

<!-- more -->Since many believe that Oracle's patents include significant prior art, something they rally against above, it will be interesting to see if Google uses Oracle's own words, however old, against them.

Along with Java, Oracle now owns a lot of Open Source projects that they acquired from Sun (MySQL, OpenOffice, OpenSolaris, Virtualbox).  This action has developers in those areas watching closely.

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