Purdue University sues Google over mobile power management tech

The university claims Google copied code for use in Android.

David Imel for Engadget

Google is once again facing claims it copied others' code in Android. Purdue University has sued Google over allegations the company is knowingly violating a patent for detecting power management bugs in code. The internet giant purportedly saw an article about Professor Y. Charlie Hu's research on the subject in 2012 and incorporated related infringing code into Android Lint, an error-catching tool in what would become the Android Studio development kit.

The USPTO granted the patent in August 2019. Purdue said it notified Google of the claimed violation in August 2021, but that Google had continued to incorporate the disputed code in Android Studio as recently as this month. The school is asking for unspecified "past and future" damages from Google.

In a statement, Google told Engadget it was still examining the lawsuit, but that it would "vigorously defend" itself and "independently develop[s]" products. We've asked Purdue for comment, but the university already told Reuters it believed Google violated more patents and would add them to the lawsuit if the company didn't negotiate licenses.

School technology patent lawsuits aren't new. Apple, for instance, was asked more than once to pay the University of Wisconsin over claimed infringements. This case may be more serious than some, however. Android Studio is a staple of Android app development — if Purdue can prove a violation in the first place, it could argue that a significant chunk of Android's app ecosystem is built around copied technology.

Update 2/2 5:15PM ET: Purdue has provided its full statement to Engadget. The university contends it spent "weeks" trying to set up a meeting to discuss the patent dispute, but was forced to file a lawsuit when Google "refused reasonable conditions" for the meet-up. The school is still open to a meeting to discuss licensing terms, but will add patents to the case if it doesn't get a response.

You can read Purdue's full statement below.

"Purdue Research Foundation's policy is to protect intellectual property developed and patented by Purdue University's faculty and researchers. Many of the innovations are supported by taxpayer-funded grants and research endowments, and PRF is tasked with protecting those public investments from those who would infringe for private gain.

"The suit against Google was filed after a year-long pre-suit investigation that revealed Google's willful infringement of multiple PRF patents. PRF attempted for weeks to set up a meeting with Google, but when Google refused reasonable conditions for a meeting, Purdue was left with no option but to initiate suit.

"RF is the assignee of multiple additional patents Google infringes. Purdue has again invited Google to meet, see the evidence of infringement, and discuss license terms. If Google continues to refuse to negotiate a license, the suit will be amended to add patents.

"What happens next is completely up to Google."