It was recently reported that the jury in the Android/Java patent infringement case sided with Google, and now presided Judge William Alsup has ruled that Oracle’s Java API elements are not copyrightable, and dismissed the claim against the search giant.
For a bit of backstory, Google’s trial against Oracle, who had sued over infringement regarding the use of Java in building the Android OS, finally commenced just weeks ago – 18 months after Oracle’s initial complaint. While the main point of contention is whether or not Google violated any copyrights, the trial was to be more about whether or not Oracle can to get a jury to agree that some portions of its Java APIs (application programming interfaces) can be classified as protected. The outcome of the trial might’ve set a precedent regarding software developers’ use of open-source content.
Still, Alsup chose to focus on specifics of the Google/Oracle case, and no broad precedent was established. The Judge stated,
In closing, it is important to step back and take in the breadth of Oracle’s claim. Of the 166 Java packages, 129 were not violated in any way. Of the 37 accused, 97 percent of the Android lines were new from Google and the remaining three percent were freely replicable under the merger and names doctrines. Oracle must resort, therefore, to claiming that it owns, by copyright, the exclusive right to any and all possible implementations of the taxonomy-like command structure for the 166 packages and/or any subpart thereof – even though it copyrighted only one implementation. To accept Oracle’s claim would be to allow anyone to copyright one version of code to carry out a system of commands and thereby bar all others from writing their own different versions to carry out all or part of the same commands. No holding has ever endorsed such a sweeping proposition.
Alsup made sure his ruling was fairly airtight, so Oracle would have a tough time filing an appeal. Statutory damages for the 9 lines rangeCheck code and eight decompiled Java test files that Google used in Android were awarded to Oracle, but pale in comparison to legal expenses. Oracle might come out with around $300,000 – and likely spent upwards of $10 million mounting their case.
Google, of course, is pleased with the outcome, and spoke on some of the virtues of software development collaboration:
The court’s decision upholds the principle that open and interoperable computer languages form an essential basis for software development. It’s a good day for collaboration and innovation.
Oracle released a statement, claiming that an appeal will be filed, and that it will continue to police the use of Java worldwide:
Oracle is committed to the protection of Java as both a valuable development platform and a valuable intellectual property asset. It will vigorously pursue an appeal of this decision in order to maintain that protection and to continue to support the broader Java community of over 9 million developers and countless law abiding enterprises. Google’s implementation of the accused APIs is not a free pass, since a license has always been required for an implementation of the Java Specification. And the court’s reliance on “interoperability” ignores the undisputed fact that Google deliberately eliminated interoperability between Android and all other Java platforms. Google’s implementation intentionally fragmented Java and broke the “write once, run anywhere” promise. This ruling, if permitted to stand, would undermine the protection for innovation and invention in the United States and make it far more difficult to defend intellectual property rights against companies anywhere in the world that simply takes them as their own.