With the recent reports of Google and Oracle possibly settling out of court over a Java/Android patent-infringement case coming to and end, the trial begins today, 18 months after Oracle’s initial complaint.
To recap, Oracle is suing Google over using Java in developing its Android OS, and seeks damages, which could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and more seriously, seeks to have the internet search giant change the code of the operating system. Google maintains that no infringement was committed, and that Oracle’s lawsuit is an attack on the open-source Java community. As another hit to Oracle, 5 of the patents it originally held at the time of the initial complaint have been invalidated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, and another one is set to expire.
The main point of contention will be whether or not APIs (application programming interfaces) can be copyrighted, which could set a precedent for developers besides Google, and the trial could cover three stages – copyright claims, patent claims and a third stage to asses any damages to be awarded to Oracle, if the company wins the first two segments. If the final stage is met, damages will depend on whether or not Oracle can prove that Google willfully violated any patents, which automatically triples fines.
While both sides agree that Java is open-source and can’t be infringed upon, Oracle asserts that Java APIs are so complex that they can be considered to be protected like a creative work of art would be. Oracle also asserts that Google manipulated the APIs to build “not a compatible version of Java, but an incompatible one.” Google’s lawyers responded, stating, “Without the APIs, the Java programming language is deaf, dumb and blind.”
High level executives from both companies are expected to participate in trial, and both outfits will need to present video presentations to better convey some highly technical discussion to the members of the jury. It will be interesting to see how the case plays out.