Oracle's fight with Google over Android: still no clear winner

In late 2010, information technology company Oracle sued Google for unlawfully using Java to power the Android mobile operating system. Oracle claimed the popular operating system violated seven of its fundamental Java patents, and the two companies began a long courtroom battle which yesterday came to a crossroads over copyrights.

Jurors sitting in on the trial in the District Court of the Northern District of California rendered a partial verdict on Monday, agreeing that Oracle had successfully proven Google's infringement upon the overall structure, sequence and organization of its Java copyrights.

However, the jury could not agree upon whether Google's use of Java constituted "fair use," and it did not think Oracle had proven Google had infringed on the 37 Java application programming interfaces (APIs).

This, it appears, is the central unanswered question of this phase of the case: whether Java APIs are copyrightable.

William H. Alsup, the US District Judge presiding over the case, posed that question in the following way:

"Assuming that a copyright protection does not extend to names, including fully qualified names, and assuming that copyright protection does not bar others from using identical input-output (argument-return) designations, such that Google was free to use the identical names and identical input-output designations, what more did Google allegedly copy from the 37 packages that is allegedly covered by copyright? Put differently, assuming Google was free to do the foregoing, to what extent was Android’s SSO dictated by the rules of the basic programming language?"

Oracle said that Google copied the APIs from the Java core libraries to be Android's, and that it constituted copyright infringement because these APIs were creative works. Google, meanwhile, claimed it had transformed them into something new and that it was fair use.

With the partial verdict on copyright rendered, the next phase of the trial will cover patents.

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