- Tomas Loewy
Google has won its trial against Oracle. The verdict was just handed down.
The jury decided that Google’s use of the disputed code was “fair use.”
From a jury of 10, the verdict was unanimous.
Oracle was attempting to sue Google for billions of dollars. It had won a previous lawsuit on this matter on appeal.
It was suing Google because Google included portions of computer code, called “application programming interfaces” or “APIs,” in Android that had come from another programming language called Java.
Oracle owns Java, acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems. Shortly after Oracle bought Sun, it tried to get Google to pay it licensing fees for Java. Google refused, so Oracle sued.
APIs allow computer programs to talk to each other and share information. Google was found to have used 37 APIs from Java, or about 11,000 lines of code, out of Android’s millions of lines of code.
Google did not take all of the APIs, but it used the same names and operations, then wrote its own code to implement the functionality.
Google’s main point in defense: Sun gave Java away for free for anyone to use, including the APIs. Google called Jonathan Schwartz, the former Sun CEO, as a witness. He testified that Google was indeed free to use Java’s APIs.
Had Oracle won, the trial would have immediately moved on to another phase with this same jury to determine damages. Oracle was expected to ask for up to $9 billion.
In a surprise to no one, Oracle says that it will appeal, so this still isn’t over. Remember: Oracle won the last phase of the case on appeal.
Oracle’s general counsel, Dorian Daley, sent out this statement:
We strongly believe that Google developed Android by illegally copying core Java technology to rush into the mobile device market. Oracle brought this lawsuit to put a stop to Google’s illegal behavior. We believe there are numerous grounds for appeal and we plan to bring this case back to the Federal Circuit on appeal.
Meanwhile, Google is clearly happy. A representative sent us this statement:
Today’s verdict that Android makes fair use of Java APIs represents a win for the Android ecosystem, for the Java programming community, and for software developers who rely on open and free programming languages to build innovative consumer products.
The whole software industry has been watching this case for fear of the widespread impact it will have. If Oracle ultimately wins, then it could set off many other lawsuits over APIs. It is common practice for programmers to imitate another program’s APIs the way Google did with Java.
If Google’s win stands, then the software industry will breathe a sigh of relief.