[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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