For the last couple of weeks, Oracle and Google have been locked in a legal battle in San Francisco to determine the outcome of Oracle's claim that Google violated Oracle's copyrights and copied several lines of Java code when Google created the Android OS. It now seems as if things are close to a temporary resolution, and the two sides may have a pseudo-truce. The proceedings have been very complex, but we will attempt to break it down to its simplest terms.
- Oracle sues Google over copyright infringement of 37 Java APIs, and also claims that 9 lines of Java code were stolen. (Oracle must prove that this infringement and theft occurred, that the Java code was in fact copyrightable, and that "fair use" was violated, meaning that Google profited from it and it hurt Oracle in the process.)
- The Jury comes back agreeing that some of Oracle's copyrights were likely infringed upon, and that the code was lifted, but that Oracle could not prove "fair use."
- Oracle’s attorney, David Boies, argues that his client was entitled to “some portion of Android revenue” as compensation for the infringement.
- Judge Alsup, (who also happens to be an amateur programmer and code-jockey himself), retorts with “There’s no way you could make that argument,” he said to Boies Tuesday afternoon. “You’re one of the best lawyers in America — how can you make that argument?” The judge basically came to the conclusion that it makes no sense for Google to have intentionally taken the time to steal those 9 lines of code, when it would have simply been faster to create it themselves, and that it was merely a coincidental accident that the code was the same.
Now, things have come to a partial conclusion, although a final ruling has not been handed down just yet. Here's a quote from the original story on Wired.com with the final details,
It looks like we are close to a resolution of the events, and that the likely outcome could be what amounts to a mild slap-on-the-wrist victory for Google.Boies eventually suggested that Oracle would concede those damages if Judge Alsup ruled against the APIs’ copyrightability, and on Wednesday morning, both sides signed an agreement reflecting as much. Oracle will now only pursue full damages if Judge Alsup rules that the 37 Java APIs in question were copyrightable at all.
But this is not be the final chapter in what has been a rollercoaster of a case. If Alsup rules the APIs are in fact copyrightable, Oracle will get a new jury and argue for full damages. If the 37 APIs are ruled not copyrightable, Oracle agreed it will just take “statutory damages” — a standard amount — that doesn’t exceed $150,000 per claim. Oracle has clearly indicated that it will appeal such a decision as well.
Hanging over either scenario is Google’s motion for a mistrial based on the incomplete verdict, which would mean the entire copyright portion would start from scratch. Google filed for a mistrial, citing the Seventh Amendment and previous case law, since the jury hadn’t answered all questions only moments after the jury returned the verdict, but Judge Alsup has yet to rule.
Both the copyright and patent proceedings have contained advanced details of Java code and underpinnings. To the surprise of the court, after he admonished Boies, Alsup then disclosed that while he had coding experience in other languages, he had learned some Java programming to be better educated for the trial.
The jury is now deliberating on Oracle’s accusations of patent infringement. If it finds Google has infringed on any of Oracle’s claims, the trial will move on to a damages phase. However, the sides could agree to simply let Judge Alsup award damages since they are a fraction by comparison to the damages Oracle had sought over copyright infringement.