According to IP expert Florian Mueller the outcome could be worse than the current war between Oracle and Google – where Oracle is claiming that Android infringes on large amounts of copyrighted Java code.
Mueller told TechEye that the company was lucky to have got away with it for so long but it was only a matter of time before the code was exposed.
The problem lies in the Linux code, which is linked to the operating system and publishes under the Apache licence.
It gets around using it at is it derives it from Linux source protected by the General Public Licence version 2 (GPLv2). To do this, Google claims to remove all copyrighted components before changing the licence.
The problem is that the header files in the Linux kernel – a list of APIs and macros that are used during compilation – fall under the GPLv2 which states that any work derived from them must also be published under the GPLv2.
Intellectual Property litigator Edward Naughtan explains on the Huffington Post, here – where he says Google’s tactics could prove to be a “legal landmine” for developers and device manufacturers.
However, as Florain points out this was never agreed in a court of law but was more of an agreement between companies. It means that Google has been able to use parts of this, plus other elements to publish the resulting code under the Apache licence as though it were an original work.
Mr Mueller claims that Google hasn’t changed its ways, it just took a while to suss it out. “The bigger Android becomes, the more interest it gathers,” he told TechEye.
“This means that people will spend more time scrutinising the system and discover things they may have missed. After all, it takes a long time to trawl through documents so there must be a reward at the end.”
At the moment, the lawsuits aren’t piling up. Mr Mueller believes that if Google takes out the offending code it will get away with it, but whether it backs down or not is a totally different story.