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May 27, 2016

Google wins $9bn Java copyright case against Oracle

News: Oracle sued Google over the use of APIs in 2010.

By CBR Staff Writer

Google has won the latest round in its long-running copyright lawsuit with Oracle over the use of Java software code in its Android operating system.

A San Francisco jury found that Google’s implementation of 37 Java APIs in its own mobile operating system should be considered fair use.

Oracle, which acquired Java when it purchased Sun Microsystems in 2009, sued Google over the use of APIs in 2010.

In 2012, following a first jury trial, US District Judge William Alsup ruled that APIs could not be brought under the purview of copyrights. The ruling was however overturned on appeal.

Oracle sought $9.3bn from Google for using 11,000 lines of Java software code in its Android OS.

The San Francisco jury agreed with Google’s argument that copyright law allows fair use of the Java elements because they were just a part of a larger system of software that the company created for a new purpose.

A Google spokesperson said: "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."

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The case is not yet closed as Oracle said that it will appeal the decision.

Oracle lawyer Dorian Daley said: "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 behaviour. We believe there are numerous grounds for appeal and we plan to bring this case back to the federal circuit on appeal."

Java is being used in Google’s Android smartphone OS which powers nearly 80% of the mobile devices globally.

Supporters of Google, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EEF), applauded the jury verdict.

The EEF said the verdict is an an important validation of the idea that developing interoperable software need not require permission or a license.

EEF said: "A jury unanimously and correctly found today that Google’s use of 37 Java package names and some 11,000 lines of "declaring code" in its Android operating system was lawful fair use, showing once again that our robust fair use doctrine is doing the crucial work of ensuring copyright law doesn’t undermine innovation.

"This verdict comes after an earlier district court opinion finding the API labels in question uncopyrightable was reversed by the Federal Circuit and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case."

The non-profit digital rights group said if Oracle appeals the decision, the appeals court should at least partially redeem itself by respecting the jury’s finding and leaving this important fair use victory intact.

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