Google, Oracle Lawsuit: 10 Key Issues to Follow in This Complex Case

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2012-05-08

Google, Oracle Lawsuit: 10 Key Issues to Follow in This Complex Case

Google and Oracle have been fighting a tenacious legal battle over Java and Android that, by all measures, is far from over. However, on May 7, a jury delivered a partial verdict in the case that, in some ways, gives Oracle a slight victory, although both sides are now claiming victory.

The jury said that Google infringed Oracle copyrights for programming tools, as well as just nine lines of code in its Android operating system. Beyond that, Oracle would not be allowed to seek the $1 billion in damages Oracle had been requesting.

The verdict was rather surprising and speaks to the uncertainty that surrounds the mobile world. From Apple to Samsung to Google to Motorola, countless companies are arguing that a competitor violates a patent or copyright that they hold, and in every single case so far, not one of them has been able to reach a final, definitive agreement. Like it or not, these cases will be around for many more years, and judging by the initial ruling in the Google-Oracle case, they won't come to a swift, easy conclusion.

Read on to find out what you should know about the Google-Oracle lawsuit.

1. It's all about Java

Although much of the focus surrounding Oracle's case against Google currently revolves around Android, the real center of the lawsuit is Java. Oracle has argued that Google violates Java copyrights (not patents) in Android, while the search company says it's innocent.

2. Oracle wants serious cash

Oracle has asked the court for $1 billion in damages for Google allegedly copying its intellectual property in Android. However, that figure has long been viewed as wildly expensive, and even if Oracle eventually ekes out a definitive victory, its damages likely won't be anywhere near that high.

3. Google had been willing to come to terms

Although Google has asserted its innocence, the company has reportedly been willing to come to terms with Oracle to prevent a long, expensive, and drawn-out lawsuit. However, Oracle has said that the terms were not acceptable, which brought the companies to the current case.

4. Google lost

Now that the background is out of the way, let's get to the present: Google lost in the first ruling in the case. A jury found that the search company did, indeed, infringe upon Oracle's Java in nine lines of code. The jury also found that Google infringed on 37 Java APIs. So, Google lost the first battle in the war.

Google Also Won


5. Google won

Before Oracle starts popping champagne, though, it's important to point out that Google also won in the first decision. Oracle will not be allowed to seek the $1 billion in damages. In addition, the jury could not come to a conclusion on whether or not Google's application of the Java APIs represented "fair use" of open-source technology. So, while Oracle might have won in principle, Google might have won in practice.

6. Android's current functionality is at stake

Still, the battle is far from over, which means Android is still not safe. If it's eventually determined that Google didn't have fair use access to the APIs and subsequent decisions take aim at how Java is used in Android, Google could very well be forced to modify Android in order to continue offering the software.

7. The implications are major

In the event that Google is forced to modify Android to adhere to a court order, the implications could be major. For one thing, the vast majority of apps in the Android Market would be broken, since they rely upon Java. In addition, Google would need to send out updates to every single Android-based device on the market, which is no small undertaking.

8. Oracle can still get (some) cash

Although Oracle won't be able to collect the $1 billion in damages, the company will still have the chance to get some cash out of the search giant. In fact, according to damages statutes that follow the determination, Oracle could be awarded up to $150,000 for the alleged infringement, which probably doesn't even cover a single day's cost of this very expensive litigation.

9. Licensing is still a possibility

Although Google hates the idea of it, there's a chance that this case might eventually be decided by a licensing deal between Oracle and the search company. After all, if the case lags on indefinitely, it might be cheaper for Google to simply license Java from Oracle. In addition, if Google loses the case, it's better to license Java than to modify Android. Licensing is still a very real possibility.

10. It's not even close to being over

Lastly, everyone should realize that the case between Google and Oracle is far from over. Right now it looks like neither side is willing to play nice with the other. The easy decisions that could result in an end to this lawsuit, like a negotiated licensing deal, won't happen until one side or another realizes that they aren't going to get a court decision that gives them what they want. There's a very real possibility that the case between Oracle and Google could span the next several years. Don't believe it? Consider Google's bitter battle with Viacom.

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