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Android phones do not infringe on Gemalto's patents, US court rules

The way Android phones run Java apps is no patent infringement, a US court ruled

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Android devices running Java applications do not infringe on patents belonging to SIM card maker Gemalto, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled.

Gemalto sued Google, Motorola, HTC and Samsung Electronics in 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, alleging that the companies infringed on three of its patents when running Java applications on their Android phones.

Before Gemalto's invention, personal computers with microprocessors could run Java applications, but these computers required a substantial amount of memory which was located on chips separate from the processor chip, called off-chip memory. Gemalto's technology enabled devices with less memory to run applications written in high level programming languages such as Java.

To do that, applications are converted from Java into another format that is suitable for computing devices with less memory. The applications are stored in the memory of the chip containing the embedded processor that executes the application. The processor however cannot run the application and requires a converter to translate the converted application into instructions the processor can execute.

The interpreter is also stored in on-chip memory, which is necessary to run a Java application. Both the application and the interpreter must fit within the constraints of the platform for storage and execution.

Gemalto alleged that the defendants infringed on this technology when their smartphones run the Android operating system and Java applications that are converted using the Android software development kit. The companies however argued they don't infringe because they rely on off-chip memory to run Java applications.

The District Court sided with the smartphone makers in a summary judgment, ruling that the accused devices didn't infringe because Gemalto did not dispute that they store program instructions off-chip and access those off-chip instructions to run the accused applications.

Gemalto did not challenge the court's findings on direct infringement, but rather argued that the devices indirectly infringe on the patents because they run Java programs in substantially the same way as described in the patents, the Court of Appeals said in its judgement.

According to Gemalto, the accused devices infringe on the patents when they temporarily load program instructions from off-chip memory into on-chip cache memory before execution. However, because cache memory cannot store applications when a device is turned off, the District Court concluded that cache memory is substantially different from permanent memory and not equivalent for infringement purposes.

Gemalto appealed the case. The company argued that on-chip cache memory is equivalent to on-chip memory permanently storing applications. Applications are loaded into on-chip cache memory before execution 97 percent of the time, according to Gemalto, which argued that the difference between 97 percent and 100 percent is insubstantial.

However, this argument is too general, the Court of Appeals said, adding that the cache memory functionality that is the basis for Gemalto's theory was employed by microprocessor-based systems at the time of the invention.

"We agree with the district court that the accused devices do not infringe ... due to their use of cache memory," the Court of Appeals said Thursday, affirming the district court's judgement of no infringement.

Gemalto said it was disappointed by the judgment, but said the decision has no impact on its licensing business.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com



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