A preliminary verdict was reached on Monday May 7th in the lawsuit between Oracle and Google. Oracle, a software development company, has sued Google over infringement allegations with Java and its use in the Android operating system. Java is a computer coding and programming language developed by Sun Microsystems (now apart of Oracle), which has revolutionized the software development industry. Java allows developers to write a code on one software platform and then use that coding and information on other platforms, without reconfiguration. This saves developers time and money, which has created a boom in the software development industry since Java launched in 1995.
Application Programming Interface’s (API), the root of Oracle’s lawsuit, use Java code to standardize the interactions between applications and different types of software. Oracle has accused Google of stealing their Java API’s during the development of the Android software. The lawsuit is broken up into 3 phases: (1) a ruling on whether Google committed copyright infringement when developing Android, (2) a ruling on the “fair use” of software API’s (the legality of Copyrighting API’s), and (3) an assessment of damages (Oracle is seeking $1 billion).
On Monday, a verdict on the first phase was released: citing that Google did in fact commit copyright infringement. If API software is considered “fair use” in the second phase of the trial, Monday’s verdict could be overturned. However, if API’s are considered copyrighted material by the court, the implications could affect the entire software industry. If the API’s can be copyrighted, software developers would have to pay royalties to the original developers in order to create new software for the business community, effectively raising the cost to do business and hindering the creativity of software developers. There is no doubt that the final verdict of this trial will be a historic decision.
Update May 20th, 2012 | Oracle v. Google and the Fate of Software Development: Part II
The fate of the software development industry is still up in the air as of Wednesday (May 16th). While no further verdicts have been reached (see “Oracle v. Google and the Fate of Software Development”), the two feuding tech companies have come to an agreement that has the potential to accelerate the pace of the trial.
On Wednesday, Oracle’s lawyers suggested that if the court finds the Java Application Programming Interfaces (API’s) to be copyrightable, then they would pursue full damages in the third Phase of the trial. On the other hand, if the court rules against the claim that Java API’s are copyrightable, Oracle will not seek further damages. This agreement could effectively get rid of the third “damages” phase of the trial depending on the judge’s ruling, which could come as early as next week.
This agreement could save time and financial resources for both parties. Realistically, however, no matter what the judge rules next week, Oracle or Google will most likely appeal the decision. This could mean a new jury and a chance to revisit Oracle’s copyright and patent claims. Last week’s copyright decision, in favor of Oracle, could be revisited if Google files for a mistrial based on the incomplete verdict, which was reached on May 7th. In a partial decision last week, the court found that Google did in fact infringe on Oracle’s Java script by copying approximately 9 lines of code in the development of Google’s Android. The court, however, could not come to a conclusion about the “fair use” of API’s (software communication platforms that use the Java language). If next week’s “fair use” verdict favors Oracle, then API’s will be considered copyrightable and royalties would be enforced on all software developers using Oracle’s property.
Written by: Simon D. Rubin