Oracle v Google - Second Trial Starts Today
Written by Sue Gee   
Monday, 09 May 2016

A new jury trial in Oracle's lawsuit against Google over the use of Java APIs in Android opens in San Francisco with Judge William Alsup again presiding. Oracle's Larry Ellison and Google's Eric Schmidt are both expected to take the stand during the trial.

 

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The new trial comes nearly six years after the lawsuit was first filed and four years after the original trial in which Judge Alsup ruled that APIs were not copyrightable, a verdict overturned on appeal.

The issue at stake in this second trial is whether Google's use of the 37 Java APIs constituted "fair use" - and it is up to the jury to decide. The instructions to the jurors from Judge Alsup have already been published. He tells them:

"Google did not have the right to use the exact lines of declaring code and the overall structure, sequence, and organization of the 37 API packages,"

He asks them to consider "the extent to which you find it was necessary" for Google to use the code and organization of APIs.

For developers this issue is of vital importance. The whole idea of using APIs is that of being able to reuse code that you or someone else has already written. If Google loses its case it could set a precedent that might lead to a spate of copyright suits.

According to Mitch Stoltz, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, speculating on the consequences if the jury favors Oracle's case:

"That is really going to create a radical shift in how software is developed worldwide. If it requires permission each time APIs are used and code calls other code, then you've upended the economics of software."

If the new jury, which is being selected today, does rule against Google on fair use it will then consider damages. Oracle is seeking $8.8 billion plus, a figure which Google says is an overstatement of Java's role in Android's success. 

For Android developers there's additional uncertainty about the future. Oracle is seeking an injunction against Google's future use of Java in Android, which would give Oracle more leverage to negotiate an ongoing royalty, something that will be decided separately by a judge rather than a jury. Google has taken steps to mitigate against this by its move away from the Java APIs to using Open JDK for future version of Android, see Google Changes Course For Android N

 

 

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Last Updated ( Monday, 09 May 2016 )