In Eastman Kodak’s lawsuit against Sun Microsystems, Kodak alleged that Java RMI activation, Java IDL, and Enterprise JavaBeans technologies violate three patents owned by Kodak. But you wouldn’t know this from reading the technology press.

Friday, a federal jury in Rochester, New York, ruled that Sun indeed infringed on Kodak’s patents. The trial in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York now continues into a penalty phase. The jury will hear arguments over just how much harm Kodak suffered by Sun illegally using its patented technologies in Java since December, 1997 when Java 1.2 was released to beta. Kodak said in court documents that it would have charged Sun about $1.06 billion for the use of its patented technologies between 1997 and now.

The jury’s decision could have far-reaching impact on software patents. The technology press is abuzz with the news. But you’d think the technology reporters would mention something about just what technologies inside Java are affected by the patents. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what parts of Java Kodak says its patents cover? And wouldn’t it be nice to know whether Microsoft’s .NET falls under Kodak’s patents?

But here is what the technology press has to say:

  • The Register has a story today that doesn’t mention what the patents cover.
  • CNET also has a story today mentioning the court case. That story summarizes the titles of the patents, saying they cover “the integration of data between object managers, and between data managers, and to the integration of different programs that were manipulating data of different types.” True, but what in Java violates these patents?
  • The New York Times’s web technology section just provides a copy of the CNET story.
  • IT World carries a story from the IDG News Service that fails to mention how Java violates Kodak’s patents.

Is the technology press asleep at the wheel? A poster to Slashdot at least mentioned something about Kodak claiming “Sun violates this patent when Java byte code uses the Java engine to run the code. This may really upset the industry, because not only Sun uses this technology for Java but Microsoft uses this technology in .Net [sic].”

Has tech news come to this, when the most detailed technical information available is from a Slashdot poster? Even TheServerSide was helpless today in explaining the details of the case, quoting the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle story Saturday about the patent lawsuit. The Democrat and Chronicle story describes the patents as covering “a method by which a program can ‘ask for help’ from another application to carry out certain computer-oriented functions.” Ben Rand, a business reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle, has been doing a great job covering this story while most of the rest of the news media have been ignoring it. But since Ben writes for a general-circulation newspaper, you can’t expect him to be writing about RMI activation daemons and Java IDL talking to CORBA objects. That’s the job of the technology news media.

So, since none of the technology reporters could bother to pay $1.68 for a 24-page court filing, here are the missing facts.

According to a court filing on August 31, submitted by Kodak attorney Paul J. Yesawich III, here is what Kodak says Java violates from Kodak’s patents. (Kodak calls these the “Accused Java Packages.”):

That same court filing, by the way, addresses the question of whether Kodak likely will go after Microsoft next. The “Kodak Statement of Position” document says Microsoft procured a license to the patented technologies in 1995 when the patents were still owned by Wang Laboratories. (Kodak bought the patents in 1997 when Wang was dissolving.)

Since the technology press has been lazy covering this story, we’re probably not going to hear more details about the technology in question in Kodak’s patents — unless perhaps the jury actually awards Kodak a $1 billion settlement. Until then, I guess we can get our technology news from Slashdot.

Update: I overlooked a news story by Jim Wagner published Monday on The story mentions Java technologies involved in the lawsuit.