Purdue just sued Google for a decade-old power patent: Here's why

Fresh legal trouble is brewing for Google after Purdue University filed a lawsuit against the tech giant alleging a smartphone-related patent violation. According to Reuters, Google has allegedly violated one of Purdue University's patents that detects power management-related bugs within written code. The lawsuit filed by the Purdue Research Foundation alleges that Google came across Purdue University Professor Y Charlie Hu's patent (and his code) in an article and incorporated the infringing code into Android Lint which was the precursor to the Android Studio development kit. The infringement happened almost a decade ago – in 2012 – but the university alleges that Google continues to use this infringed piece of code to this day.

Per the lawsuit: "On June 13, 2012, Google engineer Angana Ghosh posted a thread to the AndroidDevTools forum bringing an article previewing Professor Hu's upcoming June 25th conference

presentation to the attention of other developers involved with Android Studio and Android Lint." The document goes on to suggest that "A few days later, on June 15, 2012, Google engineer Tor Norbye indicated that some of the bugs described in the preliminary article might be possible to catch using Android Lint, and resolved to try figuring out how to recognize such power bugs." The suit suggests that infringing implementation of Professor Hu's invention was implemented in the code contained in WakelockDetector.java, which itself was merged into the Android tools base repository on December 12, 2012.

Purdue University filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas and is now claiming royalties and an undisclosed amount of money in damages. In addition, the lawsuit claims that Google committed a willful patent infringement and that the tech giant refused to engage with Purdue Research Foundation officials when they tried to contact the tech giant in connection to the patents.

More than one patent infringement?

The Reuters report also quotes a Purdue University spokesperson who alleges that Google infringes on more than one Purdue patent. Because the existing lawsuit only talks about a single patent infringement, the university plans to add additional patent violations to the complaint if Google does not agree to negotiate a license for their usage.

Purdue adds that the university received the patent for the said piece of code in 2019, following which they sent Google a notice of infringement in August 2021. However, Google did not respond to the University's complaints and continues to use the patented code on its products to this day. Purdue University officials say they also tried to meet with Google for several weeks, but its response was less than encouraging and that Google refused "reasonable conditions" for a meeting.

Google spokesperson José Castañeda revealed that it is examining Purdue University's allegations and that it would "vigorously" defend itself if the allegations do not have substance.

If Google chooses the legal recourse, it could set the course for yet another long-drawn legal battle for the search giant. Google was famously involved in a lengthy legal war with Oracle as recently as last year. Google did, eventually, win the case in the U.S. Supreme Court and avoided paying Oracle $9 billion in damages