The trial of Google vs Oracle, which began in 2010, is finally over.
After two weeks of deliberation, a jury found Google ’s use of Oracle’s Java application program interface (API) as “fair use.”
For those unfamiliar with programming, APIs are a set of protocols and tools that allow different pieces of software to talk to one another. It’s how websites can integrate buttons to share articles on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, for example.
Android became an immense success over the years, with over 1.4 billion activated devices around the world, while Oracle’s Java licensing business tanked. Oracle argued it deserved part of Android’s success since Google used its code. According to ArsTechnica, Oracle could have asked for as much as $9 billion in damages if it won.
A win for software developers
During the trial, Oracle argued Google copied parts of its Java API packages and related code in order to take a “shortcut at Oracle’s expense.”
Oracle attorney Peter Bricks claimed Google “copied 11,500 lines of code” during closing arguments. “It’s undisputed. They took the code, they copied it, and put it right into Android,” said Bricks.
Google’s victory means software developers who believe programming language APIs are fair use can breathe a sigh of relief. If Oracle had won, developers using the Java APIs would have had to license its use, bringing the app economy crashing down. It would’ve been a serious blow to open source software development.
However, APIs are still protected by copyright law under one appeals court, though Google’s victory now sets a precedent against that protection. It’s likely we’ll see a continuing battle over whether APIs can be copyrighted at all.
Oracle has vowed to appeal the decision. “We strongly believe that Google developed Android by illegally copying core Java technology to rush into the mobile device market,” said Oracle general counsel Dorian Daley. “Oracle brought this lawsuit to put a stop to Google’s illegal behavior.”