First and foremost, many compare this case to the Sun v. Microsoft thing regarding the Microsoft Java Virtual Machine, but this comparison is off. In that particular case, Sun sued Microsoft because of an alleged breach of licensing terms. Microsoft and Sun made an agreement that Redmond could implement its own Java virtual machine while still calling it Java.
Microsoft's implementation, however, had to follow the most recent Java specifications, and this is where it went wrong, according to Sun. Microsoft was allowed to use Java technologies, patents, and fiddle with them - but the agreement between the two companies stated that the implementation had to be complete. The case was eventually settled out of court.
The current case is entirely different. Google never entered into any agreement with Sun or Oracle, and just basically took bits and pieces of Java technology (in a clean room fashion) to create its Dalvik virtual machine. I'm not too deep into this whole Java thing to understand everything, but from what I can read Dalvik is rather different from any Java compatible VM, and of course, it being a clean room implementation means there's no Sun/Oracle-owned code in there - at least, that's what you'd think.
Oracle believes differently. Not only do they state that Android infringes on a number of patents, it also violates Oracle's copyrights and trademarks. "Without consent, authorization, approval, or license, Google knowingly, willingly, and unlawfully copied, prepared, published, and distributed Oracle America's copyrighted work, portions thereof, or derivative works and continues to do so," Oracle alleges, "Google's Android infringes Oracle America's copyrights in Java and Google is not licensed to do so."
There's some interesting stuff in the complaint. For instance, while Oracle is clearly going after just Google right now, the complaint mentions Android device makers and even users over and over again. It could very well be that this is standard practice, but as a mere layman, it sure sounds like a few warning shots across HTC's and Samsung's bows.
Furthermore, Oracle doesn't just want Gogole to stop distributing Android - they're asking for the destruction of every copy of Android. Oracle wants "an order that all copies made or used in violation of Oracle America's copyrights, and all means by which such copies may be reproduced, be impounded and destroyed or otherwise reasonably disposed of."
A final interesting note is that Oracle believes Android is competing with Java as an "operating system software platform for cellular telephones and other mobile devices". I guess Oracle doesn't like it that Java-proper is no longer the one choice of mobile developers. They see the writing on the wall; where Oracle collects royalties for every BlackBerry and Symbian phone sold, they don't get a penny for mobile devices running iOS or Android, and with these two destined to become the two dominant players in the mobile market, that kind of sucks for Oracle.
Yet another high-profile lawsuit in technology land. No one but lawyers will profit from this. How many more cases will it take before the powers that be in the US realise how incredibly stupid their patent system really is?
In the meantime, Jobs and Ballmer are laughing over a couple of beers. This Oracle trick plays right into their hands - uncertainty about Android is good for iOS, uncertainty about Java is good for .NET/Silverlight. Thanks, Larry.