Oracle’s patent lawsuits against Google
If you believe, Oracle’s patent lawsuits against Google for its use of Java in Android, Google has stolen not just patented ideas but directly copied Java code.
In short, Google is a red-handed thief and should pay Oracle over a billion in damages. There’s just one little problem with this portrayal of Google as as intellectual property (IP) bandit. When Android first came out. Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, then Java’s owner, greeted the news with “heartfelt congratulations.” Whoops.
What History Says ?
Java was originally developed at Sun Microsystems starting in 1991. It included a new programming language, a virtual machine, and a set of libraries for use with the language.
Android, Inc. was found in 2003 by Andy Rubin, Rich Miner, Nick Sears, and Chris White to develop a mobile phone platform. Google purchased Android in 2005 and continued developing the Android operating system. Google released a beta of the Android platform on November 5, 2007 noting that it would use some Java technologies.
Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz responded the same day, congratulating Google and saying they had “strapped another set of rockets to the community’s momentum – and to the vision defining opportunity across our planets.
Google released the Android software development kit (SDK) on November 12, 2007. Amongst other APIs, Android included Apache Harmony implementations of some of the APIs from the Java SE specification. Google negotiated with Sun about possible partnership and licensing deals for Java, but no agreement was reached.
Oracle purchased Sun in January 2010, and continued developing Java. It continued discussing a possible licensing deal, but an agreement again was not reached. Oracle sued Google for copyright and patent infringement in August 2010.
Why Oracle’s patents lawsuits against Google ?
Oracle had contested that Google’s use of its proprietary Java code exceeded fair use, and was seeking damages of up to $9 billion.
Oracle claimed that, Google had infringed its copyright by using 11,500 lines of Java code in its Android operating system.
Android is by far the most popular mobile operating system, with 1.4 billion monthly active users worldwide and a market share of more than 80%. Those users downloaded 65 billion apps in 2015 alone.
When it was developed, Android partly used the programming language Java to build its API. Java was a widely used language, developed by a company called Sun Microsystems in the 1990s.
Sun was bought by Larry Ellison’s $169 billion software conglomerate Oracle in 2010. And after unsuccessfully trying to negotiate for a deal which would allow Google to license the Java APIs. Oracle sued for copyright and patent infringement, firing the first shot in the legal war.
Case split into three phases: copyright, patent, and damages
The case assigned to Judge William Alsup, who split the case into three phases: copyright, patent, and damages.
The copyright phase consisted of several distinct claims of infringement: a nine-line rangeCheck funtion, several test files, the structure, sequence and organization of the Java application programming interface (API), and the API documentation. Oracle alleged infringement of 37 separate Java APIs.
After extensive pre-trial briefing, this phase began on April 16, 2012. At the end of this phase, the jury ruled that the API was infringed. But deadlocked on Google’s fair use defense for this claim. They also found that rangeCheck was infringed, but that neither the documentation not the other literal code was.
The patent phase began on May 7, 2012, with the same jury. By the time of trial, Oracle’s patent case comprised claims from two patents, 6061520 (Method and system for performing static intialization), and RE38104 (Method and apparatus for resolving data references in generated code).
Google pursued a non-infringement defense. For the 6061520 patent, they argued that they were using parsing for optimizing static initialization, rather than “simulating execution” as the claim required. For the RE38104 patent, they argued that the instruction did not include a symbolic reference.
The jury found non-infringement on all patent counts. As a result of these rulings and a stipulation, there was no jury damages phase. The parties agreed to zero dollars in statutory damages for a small amount of copied code.
Google wins six-year legal battle with Oracle over Android code copyright
Google has won a six-year court case brought by software firm Oracle, which claimed Google had infringed its copyright by using 11,500 lines of Java code in its Android operating system.
The jury ruled that Google’s use of 37 Java APIs was fair use. The news will be welcomed by developers, who typically rely on free access to APIs to develop third-party services.
“I salute you for your extreme hard work in this case,” US district judge William Alsup told the jury, who had deliberated for three days at San Francisco federal court. “I know there will be appeals and the like”.
As a result of the successful appeal, a new district court trial began on May 9, 2016 on the question of whether Google’s actions were fair use. Closing arguments were completed on May 23, 2016 and the jury of eight women and two men began deliberations.
Oracle was seeking damages of up to US$9 billion. On May 26, 2016, the jury found that Android does not infringe Oracle-owned copyrights. Because its re-implementations of 37 Java APIs is protected by fair use.
Oracle will appeal its “fair use” loss against Google again
As promised, Oracle is appealing the case again, and filed its appeal on October 26, 2016.
Oracle’s lawyers argue in the appeal filing:
“Google started trial knowing a fact it kept secret from everyone else: It was days away from announcing that’s the full functionality of Android would soon be working on desktops and laptops, not just on smartphones and tablets.”
The two tech giants have been battling it out for years in two separate court cases over whether Google must pay Oracle billions of dollars for bits of code copied from Java (a programming language Oracle owns) and used in Android (the language Google controls).
At issue were bits of code called application programming interfaces (APIs), the technology that allows different computer programs to talk to each other.
Electronic Frontier Foundation Legal Director Corynne McSherry said in a statement, “it’s important for many technology developers, large and small. A finding of fair use here, while rooted in the facts of this case, could set important precedents for the use of APIs by everyone down the road – including Google.”