When we first heard that Oracle was suing Google for patent infringement and also for copyright violations we thought it was rather funny. We read the complaint and wrote it off as not a big deal. Oracle had no leg to stand on. Things changed when Oracle changed tacks and tried to prove that APIs (Advanced Programing Interfaces) could be covered under copyright. This one little shift in their attempt to derail Google (not necessarily a bad thing) made this one of the most important trials going on.
As we have told you, APIs are what allow programs to talk to each other. They are fundamental to the way software works. If they are subject to copyright that would open up the flood gates for a torrent of litigation. Fortunately the judge in the case Judge William Alsup turned out to be a programmer himself and was able to understand the difference between reality and the fiction that Oracle’s attorneys were trying to present. You see although the Java language has always been free and their APIs open for use, Oracle (the new owners) did not think this covered anything commercial.
They wanted to try and prove that Google infringed on their APIs, language and more; that they did so intentionally to get Android to market. Again Judge Alsup stepped in and in no uncertain words let Oracle’s lawyers know that the idea of Google copying nine lines of code to meet a deadline was ridiculous. He further cautioned Oracle that asking for infringer’s profits from Google was not a wise move.
In the end we have a feeling that Judge Alsup’s commentary on programming, the way he refused to allow both sides to paint a fantasy in the court room and careful handling of the case resulted in one of the better informed juries.
During the deliberation the jury came back out and asked for clarification on one point so they knew what it meant to both parties and how it applied to the situation. Alsuplet them know they were “spot on” for doing that as it is important to understand the complex language used in patents and patent litigation. Alsup required Google and Oracle to hammer out the answer and let the jury know. Within 30 minutes of answering the question the jury came back with a Not Guilty Verdict.
We may never know why Larry Ellison of Oracle decided to attempt this in court, or indeed if he really thought it would work. However, we do know that a guilty verdict would have been bad for more than just Google. It might not have been cause of the zombie apocalypse, but it would have had a massive impact on the software world.
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