On October 26, 2016 Oracle filed an appeal Wednesday of its defeat in an $8.8 billion copyright lawsuit against Google. Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc. is a dispute related to Oracle‘s copyright and patent claims on Google’s Android operating system. Oracle claimed that Google’s reuse of 37 of 166 packages of the Java application program interface (API) in the Android software for smart phones infringed copyright. Oracle claimed intellectual property rights in that API by virtue of its acquisition of Sun Microsystems, the developer of the Java technologies, including the API. Java was originally developed at Sun Microsystems starting in 1991. Oracle completed its acquisition of Sun, the makers of the Java programming language and platform, in January 2010. In August of that year, Oracle sued Google for copyright and patent infringement over the company’s use of Java-related technology in Android.
The case centers around an API developed by Java and owned by Oracle, which allows outside programs to easily interact with Java programs. Android uses the same API, and in 2014 a federal appeals court ruled that Oracle has a valid copyright claim on the API code, potentially putting Google on the hook for billions of dollars in damages. Oracle and Google were back in district court in May, 2016 determining whether Google’s use of the APIs constitute “fair use,” meaning that Google doesn’t need permission from the copyright holder in order to use them. In the latest round, Google argued that Android’s reimplementation of the API constituted fair use, which would allow use of the code without invalidating Oracle’s copyright. Ultimately, the jury found that case convincing.
Google argued that it had copied only a small amount of material that was necessary to effectively use the open-source Java language, and that it had transformed that code into a new mobile platform that didn’t compete with anything Oracle offered. Oracle, on the other hand, said Google had blatantly stolen copyrighted material as a profitable shortcut, which destroyed Oracle’s ability to license the code in the mobile space.
In May 2012, the jury in this case found that Google did not infringe on Oracle’s patents, and the trial judge ruled that the structure of the Java APIs used by Google was not copyrightable. The parties agreed to zero dollars in statutory damages for a small amount of copied code. On May 9, 2014, the Federal Circuit partially reversed the district court ruling, ruling in Oracle’s favor on the copyright ability issue, and remanding the issue of fair use to the district court. A petition for certiorari was denied by the United States Supreme Court on June 29, 2015. A second trial began May 9, 2016, in which Oracle sought US$8.8 billion in damages. On May 26, 2016, the trial jury sided in favor of Google, ruling the action to be fair use.