Oracle, Google Trial Down to API RulingBy: Mike Fossum - May 16, 2012
It was recently reported that the jury in Oracle’s case against Google for copyright infringement found that the search giant did violate Java copyrights, but likewise were undecided on whether or not the manipulation of the Java APIs in question should be considered fair use. Oracle’s legal team requested that presiding Judge William Alsup rule on the question as a matter of law, only to be denied. Alsup stated that a ruling “wouldn’t be fair,” citing the wealth of evidence introduced during the proceedings.
So far, Google has only been found to have infringed upon 9 lines of rangeCheck code found in TimSort.java and ComparableTimSort.java – 9 lines out of the 15 million that comprise Android, which equates to one count of infringement. While Oracle asked Alsup to rule on fair use, Google likewise requested a mistrial. By statute, the 9 lines of code in question can only garner a maximum fine of $150,000, which Judge Alsup confirmed last week.
Yesterday, Oracle stated that if the APIs are ruled to be protected by copyright, it won’t go after Google seeking extensive damages related to the rangeCheck code. Alsup had called portions of Oracle’s argument a “fishing expedition,” and the legal team adjusted its tactics. Oracle lead counsel David Boies had argued that Oracle could still lay claim to infringer’s profits – Android makes about $3 million a day, and Oracle wanted a piece. But Boies agreed to forgo this sort of claim if Alsup ruled that the APIs weren’t protected.
Interestingly, Judge Alsup told the court that he’d learned to code Java specifically for the trial, and that he’d written some of the possibly infringing scripts a hundred times before the trial even began. Alsup stated, “I can do it. You can do it. It’s so simple.” Then, addressing Boies, Alsup added, “You’re one of the best lawyers in America — how can you make that argument?” Snap.
Alsup said he’d present a ruling on the APIs within a week, and Boies submitted Oracle’s stance – if the APIs are protected, they will seek damages, if not, they will likely get next to nothing. And so goes the once potentially $1 billion dollar case.
For a bit of backstory, Google’s trial against Oracle, who is suing over infringement regarding the use of Java in building the Android OS, finally commenced just weeks ago – 18 months after Oracle’s initial complaint. While the main point of contention is whether or not Google violated any copyrights, the trial was to be more about whether or not Oracle can to get a jury to agree that some portions of its Java APIs (application programming interfaces) can be classified as created works of art, and thus protected. The outcome of the trial could set a precedent regarding software developers’ use of open-source content.