USPTO gave its preliminary, "non-final" (meaning that Oracle can present more evidence) rejection of all the asserted claims of U.S. Patent No. RE38,104 on a "Method and apparatus for resolving data references in generated code" claimed as an invention by Java creator, James Gosling and filed as a patent in 1999.
Looking at this patent it boils down to the idea of symbolic resolution at runtime — which is what any interpreter does. A symbol is left embedded into the compiled code, i.e. within the intermediate language, and the symbol is resolved to a value before being executed by the virtual machine. The idea of runtime symbol resolution in this form is how an interpreter works and so the idea that this might be patentable just because the language is being run on a VM seems unlikely.
Gosling's blog tells how Sun did pay much attention to patents until it was sued by IBM and lost, nearly going out of business. Gosling continues:
"We [Sun] survived, but to help protect us from future suits we went on a patenting binge. Even though we had a basic distaste for patents, the game is what it is, and patents are essential in modern corporations, if only as a defensive measure. There was even an unofficial competition to see who could get the goofiest patent through the system."
So now it seems Oracle has been tripped up by Sun's "goofy" patents."
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