[A2k] Jury sides with Google in billion dollar Oracle suit
Susan Isiko Strba
susan.isiko.strba at bluewin.ch
Thu May 26 14:12:34 PDT 2016
Jury sides with Google in billion dollar Oracle suit
by David Goldman @DavidGoldmanCNN
May 26, 2016: 4:35 PM ET
A jury sided with Google in a $9 billion copyright case brought by Oracle.
The jury found that Google's use of Oracle's APIs in its Android
operating system was fair use. It reached the verdict after three days
of deliberation in San Francisco court.
This was the $9 billion question: If a software company puts a free tool
online, do developers need the company's permission to use it?
The case focused on 37 application programming interfaces that Google
included in its Android operating system in 2009. APIs help different
kinds of software communicate with one another.
The APIs that Google used were for Java, a ubiquitous computer
programming language that belonged to Sun Microsystems at the time.
Oracle bought Sun in 2010 and sued Google later that year. The two
Silicon Valley titans have been duking it out in various courts ever since.
The Java APIs were open-source, free to use for anyone. Google did try
to arrive at a deal with Sun to use the APIs, but those deals fell apart
and Google decided to use the APIs anyway. Oracle (ORCL, Tech30) claimed
that Google violated its copyrights and patents by using the APIs in
The case took some seriously strange twists and turns: A jury in 2012
ruled in Oracle's favor. But District Judge William Alsup overruled the
jury's decision, giving a directed verdict that determined APIs could
not be copyrighted. An appeals court overturned the judge's ruling in
2014. Google appealed it to the Supreme Court, which declined to take up
the case, leaving the appeals court ruling intact.
However, the ruling did not address Google's claims that putting the
Java APIs in Android constituted fair use. That's a legal precedent
that, in certain circumstances, can allow companies to use copyrighted
content without the owner's permission.
So the case went back to the district court for a jury to rule on the
fair use issue.
Related: Google's Android secrets revealed in court
Google (GOOGL, Tech30) argued that it transformed Java into something
completely new and useful for its customers, so its actions should be
protected under the fair use principle.
Oracle, on the other hand, claimed that Google stole its property, using
it to enrich itself to the tune of tens of billions of dollars. In
court, Oracle claimed that Android has produced $31 billion in sales and
$22 billion in profit since 2008, a number that Google disputes.
As a result, Oracle is sought $9 billion in damages from Google.
Oracle claims that Java could have become the software of choice for
smartphones had Google not used the APIs in Android. Oracle also argued
that Google owes it licensing fees.
Judge Alsup, who again oversaw the case, said that figure was
"speculative," since we can't know whether Java would have taken a more
prominent role in smartphones had Android not used the APIs.
The case could have resulted in the largest copyright verdict in U.S.
history. The largest standing copyright verdict is $1.3 billion, awarded
to Oracle when it sued rival SAP in 2010.
If Oracle won, companies would have had to decide whether to strike a
deal with API makers ahead of time or go it alone and write their own
APIs. It's would have been an unwelcome choice between taking a hit to
profit or interoperability.
Oracle could appeal the decision, so the case likely isn't over just
yet. With so much at stake, they could try to fight to the bitter end.
Heather Kelly contributed to this report.
CNNMoney (New York) First published May 26, 2016: 10:18 AM ET
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