In a major decision that has led to a setback to Oracle Inc., a U.S. District Judge on Thursday, issued a ruling in favour of Google, in a case about the Java copyright issues for the Android Platform. This has saved Google a major money being paid to Oracle as damages, which could have been up to $6 billion.
In the case that began last month, Oracle at one point had claimed a whopping 6 billion US dollars as damages from Google, for trampling on its rights to the structure of 37 Java APIs. Oracle sought roughly $1 billion on its copyright claims.
Java is a product from the Oracle corporation. Google’s Android operating system is based on Java. A major share of the smartphones sold worldwide, run on the Google’s Android OS.
Google argued it did not violate Oracle’s patents and that Oracle cannot copyright APIs for Java, an open-source or publicly available software language.
On May 7, the Jurors found that Google had infringed on nine lines of Java coding, but the penalty for that violation is confined to statutory damages no higher than $150,000. On May 23, jurors cleared Google of infringing two Oracle patents.
The judge was careful to keep his 41-page order narrowly focused. At several points, he emphasized that virtually all of Google’s Android code was written independently, without copying Oracle’s proprietary software. And he concluded that the structure of the disputed APIs amounted to an organizing “system” or “method of operation,” which is explicitly exempted under U.S. copyright law.
“This order does not hold that Java API packages are free for all to use without license,” Judge Alsup wrote. “Rather, it holds on the specific facts of this case, the particular elements replicated by Google were free for all to use under the Copyright Act.”
A Google spokesman hailed the decision as a victory “for collaboration and innovation.”
Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger said the company will “vigorously appeal” Alsup’s order. “This ruling, if permitted to stand, would undermine the protection for innovation and invention in the United States,” Hellinger wrote in an email.