Google Prevails in Copyright Fight Against Oracle

May 26, 2016, 8:34 PM UTC
Google's Android mobile OS.
Google's Android mobile OS.
Photograph by Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a high-profile retrial of a patent fight between Oracle and Google, a 10-person jury has found in favor of Google.

The jury was asked to answer one question: Has Google shown that its implementation of Java within its mobile operating system, Android, constitutes fair use under the Copyright Act?

After deliberating for roughly three days, the jury responded unanimously that Google had adhered to the law.

The two tech giants have been tied up in a heated lawsuit for years now, resulting in the current retrial of a 2012 face-off at the same federal courthouse in San Francisco. Jury selection started on May 9 with opening arguments the following day. The jury had been deliberating since closing arguments on Monday afternoon.

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Google (GOOG) began incorporating features from Java into Android in 2007, the same year the mobile operating system was publicly unveiled. At the time, Java was owned by Sun Microsystems. After acquiring Sun in 2010, Oracle (ORCL) asked that Google pay licensing fees, pointing toward 37 separate API packages that it said Google had implemented. When the two couldn’t come to terms, Oracle sued Google for using these APIs without permission.



Oracle argued that Google stole its intellectual property, costing it billions of dollars in lost opportunity in the mobile phone market. Google argued that its implementation of Java APIs fall under U.S. copyright laws for fair use, which permits limited use of copyrighted material without licensing for creative, educational, and other purposes.

For more, read: A Guide to Oracle v. Google, a $9.3 Billion Fair Use Fight

Throughout the legal battle—the 2012 trial, a subsequent stop at the Federal Circuit of Appeals, a petition to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court (which was ultimately rejected), and now this month’s retrial—past and present Google executives (including former Android chief Andy Rubin and Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet, Google’s parent company) have repeatedly defended the search company’s use of the Java APIs. They insisted that they were free to use elements of Java without a license.

Oracle had sought more than $9 billion in damages from Google if it won this go-around.

“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,” said a Google spokesperson.

“We strongly believe that Google developed Android by illegally copying core Java technology to rush into the mobile device market,” said Oracle General Counsel Dorian Daley in a statement issued after the verdict. “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.”

However, even with today’s verdict, this verdict is unlikely to be the end of the fight as most case followers suspect it will likely return to the appeals court. Depending on the winner of that outcome, either party could even make another bid to be heard by the Supreme Court.

“I know there will be appeals and the like,” said Judge William Alsup to attorneys for both sides of the courtroom after the jury was dismissed. Alsup also gave the courtroom a 30 minute recess as a time to let the verdict “sink in” before discussing further proceedings.

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