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Old 05-07-12, 11:43 PM   #1
Join Date: Mar 2004
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Default Google (partially) loses suit to Oracle over use of Java API's

Bad news for Google. We will have to see how this plays out.

It's very strange how a jury can rule that they broke copyright laws for the Java API's, however, they cannot rule as to whether or not Google had a valid "fair use" defense. It seems to imply that one inherently determines the fate of the other. That being said, I expect a mistrial. Either way, this one is nowhere close to being over.


In what could be a major blow to Android, Google's mobile operating system, a San Francisco jury issued a verdict today that the company broke copyright laws when it used Java APIs to design the system. The ruling is a partial victory for Oracle, which accused Google of violating copyright law.

But the jury couldn't reach agreement on a second issue—whether Google had a valid "fair use" defense when it used the APIs. Google has asked for a mistrial based on the incomplete verdict, and that issue will be briefed later this week.

The results aren't clear going forward. Both sides are going to write briefs arguing how to proceed from here, with Google likely arguing the verdict needs to be thrown out, while Oracle somehow tries to hang on to its win on question 1A, the fundamental question about whether Google infringed copyright.

No one knows the jury's internal deliberations, so it's speculative to guess at what led to the partial verdict. But one reason could be the unusual construction of this trial. Judge William Alsup, who is overseeing the case, ruled that the case would be decided by a jury of 12, which is large for a civil case and increases the possibility of having one or more "holdout" jurors. Alsup also ruled that the jury must decide unanimously, a requirement for criminal cases that's not always imposed on civil juries.

On two other questions—whether Google violated copyrights on certain software documentation, and a question about whether Google's acknowledged copying of a few short software functions also broke copyright laws—the jury found mostly in Google's favor. There was no infringement found regarding the documentation, but the jury did find that one nine-line function that Google acknowledged copying was infringing. (If that's all that holds up, though, there won't be much in way of damages available to Oracle.)

What is clear is that the jury believes that Google did copy something important. Even though Google's code in Android was original or borrowed from other open source code, the jury found that the Android APIs copied the "structure, sequence, and organization" of Java APIs.

Google spokesman Jim Prosser responded to the verdict quickly, saying via e-mail: "We appreciate the jury's efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin. The core issue is whether the APIs here are copyrightable, and that's for the court to decide. We expect to prevail on this issue and Oracle's other claims."

If the verdict stands, the end result is that Java may not be as open source as it was thought to be. Oracle may be able to essentially take Java out of the public domain, at least as far as its use in cell phones.

Oracle may have a leg up in the patent phase. It's already managed to sway these 12 jurors on the key question, and the same panel is now considering Oracle's allegations that Google has infringed two Java-related patents.

This is far from being a loss for Google at this point, however. Even if it doesn't manage to get Judge Alsup to declare a mistrial, the search giant has other ways it could avoid a big copyright loss.

First of all, Alsup let the jury trial move forward without making a key ruling: whether APIs are copyrightable at all. Instead, he let the evidence develop throughout the trial, and told the jury to assume that APIs can be copyrighted. But at the end of the trial, Alsup gave the lawyers a short talk indicating that he may see the API issue Google's way, comparing APIs to an idea for writing a guide book from San Francisco to Monterey.
If the anti-Android verdict stands

If the verdict that Android infringed copyrights stands, it could put programmers in a difficult situation. Java is an open source language, but now it's not clear how free programmers are to use it, since Oracle has said that anyone following the Java APIs—which are basically sets of instructions about how to use Java—needs a license.

The effects beyond Android and Java are unclear. At this point, Android is the only "non-standard" implementation of Java. However, it could have a chilling effect, and if Oracle is seen as a major IP enforcer when it comes to Java, that could backfire.

"Other people will be deterred from using Java as the basis for some non-standard thing in the future," said Tyler Ochoa, a professor of copyright law at Santa Clara University. "It could be the case that Oracle wins the battle and loses the war."

For all that, Oracle won today on the key question. The company's long battle to get money out of Google and Android is looking like it stands a much better chance today. While Oracle is a large company with many operations and hardly a "patent troll," in a way, it may be able to execute a similar strategy—getting a cut of the lucrative smartphone market using intellectual property laws, even though it doesn't compete in that market. What kind of money Oracle will be able to collect will be determined in a third "damages phase" of the trial. That phase will start after the "patent phase," which begins today and may only last one week.

Overall, the situation bodes poorly for Google's legal defense of Android, which will be ongoing. Oracle's lawsuit was the most aggressive and well-funded of many intellectual property attacks against Android. But Google will continue to be involved in Android-related patent litigation, as the handset companies that make Android phones, like Samsung and HTC, are being sued by Microsoft and Apple in a kind of "proxy war" against Android.

Despite these legal attacks, Android is experiencing explosive growth; a Google executive testified last week that 750,000 Android phones are being activated each day in 2012. That's up from 160,000 per day in 2010.
What happens next

After the partial copyright verdict was read, Judge Alsup launched right into the patent phase without even giving a break. Right now, the jury is watching a video about patents and patent lawsuits produced by the Federal Judicial Center, which is commonly shown to patent juries. Court will probably adjourn after opening statements today, and witnesses will begin testifying tomorrow, possibly including a repeat show by Jonathan Schwartz, the ex-Sun CEO. The patent phase is expected to be concluded in as little as one week.
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Old 05-07-12, 11:48 PM   #2
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Default Re: Google (partially) loses suit to Oracle over use of Java API's

Also, aren't Java API's offered for free/fair use? Google does not make money off of Android; they make money off the store and advertising.
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Old 05-08-12, 08:11 AM   #3
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Default Re: Google (partially) loses suit to Oracle over use of Java API's

Forget Java and go C+ from what i have read there have been performance increases and better stability from C+ on mobile phones.
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Old 05-17-12, 10:25 AM   #4
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Default Re: Google (partially) loses suit to Oracle over use of Java API's

Doesn't look like Oracle's doing too well in this case. The judge is a programmer and thinks Oracle's attorney is not.

This is a good read:

One month into the Oracle v Google trial, Judge William Alsup has revealed that he has, and still does, write code. Will this affect the outcome?

So far all that Oracle has managed to prove is that Google copied nine lines of Java code, that are incorporated into Android operating system and eight test files that are not part of the production code. And yesterday, in a hearing about "infringer profits" Judge Alsup challenged Oracle's lawyer David Boies for trying to pin so much on the rangeCheck infringement.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup, Northern District of California (Image: Hillary Jones-Mixon/The Recorder)

Boies had been trying to claim that Google's use of rangeCheck was "no accident" and that they had used it in order to save time:

They wanted it faster, faster, faster. This copying allowed them to use fewer resources and accelerate that. Suppose they accelerated it two days. They're making $3 million a day now, activating 700k or 800k phones. [something about how Google estimates they make $8 to $10 per activation] If you just get one or two days' acceleration, that's $6 million or $7 million, and it's not something that's untethered from the value that's created.

Judge Alsup then reminded Boies that, in order to claim infringer damages, Oracle will have to prove a "causal nexus", i.e a connection, between the infringement and the body of profits being sought. To this Boies replied:

I still think it's possible to demonstrate a nexus by showing that speed was very important to Google in getting Android out, and by copying they accelerated that.

It was at this point that the Judge made the revelation that caused a flurry of excitement:

I have done, and still do, a significant amount of programming in other languages. I've written blocks of code like rangeCheck a hundred times before. I could do it, you could do it. The idea that someone would copy that when they could do it themselves just as fast, it was an accident. There's no way you could say that was speeding them along to the marketplace. You're one of the best lawyers in America, how could you even make that kind of argument?

Boies obviously misunderstands and responds:

I want to come back to rangeCheck.

To which Judge Alsup deliver's a body blow which indicates he at least does understand how straightforward it would be to program rangeCheck from scratch:

Judge: rangeCheck! All it does is make sure the numbers you're inputting are within a range, and gives them some sort of exceptional treatment. That witness, when he said a high school student could do it--

And the lawyer reveals he doesn't:

I'm not an expert on Java -- this is my second case on Java, but I'm not an expert, and I probably couldn't program that in six months.


Perhaps the moral of this is that Oracle should have included a programmer as part of its legal team.

However more important is the fact that Judge Alsup. who has a mathematics degree, really does understands the technical issues at the heart of this case. He has written code and over the period of his involvement of this case has extended his knowledge of programming languages to include Java. While he instructed the jury to make their deliberations on the basis that the 37 APIs were copyrightable this is a decision he has yet to make and at the start of yesterday's proceedings her stated:

I have been working hard on the order dealing with copyrightability, and I don't think I'll have that in the next week for sure.

Another thing is for sure, he'll be taking an informed look at the question and won't be swayed by vacuous arguments.

Perhaps every judge should be a coding judge - it must make the law seem a lot simpler...

If you would like a programmers take on the patents that Oracle is currently trying to assert against Android then see: The Oracle v Google Trial IProgrammer Reads the Patents. It explains in simple terms exactly what Oracle thinks is so novel and clever.
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