Google has filed a motion opposing an Apple subpoena for the source code used on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone. The subpoena was filed in the second of Apple’s two current lawsuits against Samsung in the U.S. (not the one currently approaching trial). In this suit, as with the other, Apple alleges patent infringement against Samsung.
As part of the suit, Apple filed a subpoena asking for the source code of Android as found on the Galaxy Nexus, as well as documentation showing how, specifically, that source code differed from the publicly available version of the Android source code. In a filing on Saturday (PDF), Google expressed its opposition to the subpoena, calling it “a manufactured controversy.” Google’s filing notes that Apple’s subpoena was delayed until too near a court-imposed deadline, making it impossible for Google to produce the relevant documentation. They also point out that Google has repeatedly provided the source code for “lead devices” (i.e., the Nexus devices that Google releases with each new major version of Android) like the Galaxy Nexus, and that Apple’s only reason for delaying was to make it possible for them to file a motion to compel Google to turn over the code.
For much of the first portion of the filing, it seems as though Google has a fair point – they appear to have been willing to play ball with Apple, and Apple appears to have employed some sneaky lawyering in order to get more than Google is willing to give. It’s what Google isn’t willing to give, though, that’s really interesting. First of all, Google’s filing points out that Samsung is the manufacturer of the Galaxy Nexus, and that the freely available open source code is not relevant, as it is not the final version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich that went onto the phone (though it’s worth noting that earlier in the document Google claims that for lead devices, OEMs are only provided the binaries for installing Android, and not the software itself).
Second, and more interestingly, Google opposes Apple’s subpoena on the grounds that providing the information Apple requests “would reveal critical Google trade secrets.” That is, the exact form of Android as it is implemented on the Galaxy Nexus is proprietary, not open source at all. Google opposes Apple’s demand on the grounds that “Apple has failed to meet its burden required to pierce Google’s trade secrets.” They also argue (rightly, almost certainly) that “Apple could want this request for one purpose only – to design claims for other litigation.”
Google’s response to Apple’s subpoena makes sense. The Galaxy Nexus is Google’s flagship phone – the only Google-branded Android phone currently on the market, and arguably the best Android phone available. That said, though, the refusal to hand over the Galaxy Nexus source code is another nail in the coffin of the idea that Android is an open platform. Android is, as iMore said last year, “openy.” While Google may brag about the platform’s openness, when it gets down to it, they are as protective of Android as Apple is of iOS.[H/T: FOSS Patents]