A federal jury has ruled that Google’s Android operating system does not infringe Oracle-owned copyrights because its re-implementation of 37 Java APIs was protected by “fair use”.
The Jury took three days to reach its verdict. Oracle has decided it will appeal.
There was only one question on the special verdict form, asking if Google’s use of the Java APIs was a “fair use” under copyright law. The jury unanimously answered “yes,” in Google’s favour.
If Oracle had won, the same jury would have gone into a “damages phase” to determine how much Google should pay.
US District Judge William Alsup, who has overseen the litigation since 2010 said the jury had did a great job and he “would like to come in the jury room and shake each of your hands individually.”
Google said in a statement that its victory was good for everybody. “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,” a spokesGoogle said.
Oracle which had expected to win billions off of the court case vowed to appeal. Dorian Daley, Oracle’s general counsel, said in a 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.”
APIs can be protected by copyright under the law of at least one appeals court. However, the first high-profile attempt to control APIs with copyright law has now been stymied by a “fair use” defence.
Over the course of the two-week trial, jurors heard testimony from current and former CEOs at Sun Microsystems, Google, and Oracle, as well as in-the-trenches programmers and computer experts from both companies.
Oracle bought Java when it purchased Sun Microsystems and started a law suit against Google over the APIs in 2010. In 2012, following a first jury trial, US District Judge William Alsup ruled that APIs can’t be copyrighted, but Alsup’s opinion was overturned on appeal. At this month’s trial, Google’s only available argument was that the 37 APIs constituted “fair use.”
Oracle argued that Google copied parts of Java API packages as well as related declaring code, in order to take a “shortcut at Oracle’s expense.” As Android prospered, Oracle’s Java licensing business, cantered largely around feature-phones, tanked.
“They copied 11,500 lines of code. It’s undisputed. They took the code, they copied it, and put it right into Android,” Oracle attorney Peter Bicks told the court.
Google pointed out that Java has always been “free and open” to use—and that included re-implementing Java APIs. Sun and its CEO Jonathan Schwartz accepted Android as a legitimate, if inconvenient, competitive product.
Google attorney Robert Van Nest told the jury that Oracle’s case was all about having a big sulk. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison welcomed Android at first, but later he “changed his mind, after he had tried to use Java to build his own smartphone and failed to do it.”