Oracle v. Google Java Copyright Portion of Trial Now in Hands of Jury

The jury had a couple of hours to begin deliberations but came to no conclusion. Discussions will resume at 8 a.m. May 1.

On Day 1 of its third week in session, a 12-person jury April 30 started deliberations in the potential landmark copyright infringement lawsuit Oracle originally brought in 2010 against Google.

The jury had a couple of hours to begin deliberations but came to no conclusion. Discussions will resume at 8 a.m. May 1 following closing arguments laid out by both legal teams on April 30.

At the copyright and patent trial in federal court, which began April 16, Oracle is charging Google with stealing parts of its Java software suite (called application programming interfaces, or APIs) to help build its highly successful Android mobile device operating system. Oracle is seeking about $1 billion in damages and a possible injunction against Google using the software.


Oracle became the maintainer of the open-source Java platform in January 2010 as part of its $7.4 billion acquisition of Sun Microsystems.

Oracle claims that because Google closely followed the "structure, sequence, and organization" of 37 Java APIs, its copyrights have been violated.

Google has contended that it used freely available parts of the Java package that aren't protected by copyright and have been available for download to any software developer since November 2006, when Sun released the IP to the open-source community after holding it as proprietary for 11 years.

Android, released in 2008 by Google to partners such as Samsung, HTC and other manufacturers for smartphones and tablet PCs, now runs more than 300 million mobile devices.

During his closing arguments, Oracle attorney Michael Jacobs reiterated his earlier assertion that Google violated Oracle's copyrights when it built its own non-Sun-sanctioned version of Java inside Android to bring connectivity to the operating system.

"Can somebody use another company's property just because it suits them? No!" Jacobs asked the court, summing up Oracle's case in a single statement.

Jacobs said that the "Java APIs are complex, creative, and artful," and that the 37 APIs Google had copied "were some of the crown jewels of the Java system. This is not trivial; this is some substantial copying that Google engaged in."

McNealy on Record as Being for Oracle

A key former Sun executive agreed on the record in court with Oracle. Former Sun CEO Scott McNealy, one of the four founders of Sun, testified last week that just because Java was open source and publicly available doesn't mean the programming language's APIs don't have to be licensed in certain contexts.

"Open doesn't mean it's 'throw it over the transom,'" McNealy said. "That's a big difference."

McNealy also said that Sun licensed its APIs and compared them to "architectural drawings"€”something akin to Oracle's description of the APIs as "blueprints."

APIs are made up of several components: specifications, software tools and techniques. The latter cannot by copyrighted; this in large part is the center of the lawsuit.

Testifying for Google, however, was former Sun President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz, who appeared in court on the same day as McNealy and told the court that Google did "absolutely nothing wrong" in using Java to build Android.

During his testimony, Schwartz€”a longtime McNealy friend and associate€”said that companies could use Java without buying a license so long as they didn't claim to be "Java compatible" and use the Java logo.


In his own closing argument April 30, Google defense lawyer Robert Van Nest repeated his statement that the search giant did nothing wrong or illegal in building its own version of Java, claiming "fair use" of Oracle's copyrights. Google never labeled its version of Java for the mobile device operating system as "Pure Java," which would have changed its nature as open-source IT.

Google's Version of Java Was 'Original'

"Everything in Android is original," Van Nest told presiding Judge William Alsup and the jury. "Google made Java its own for this software project."

There is confusion about what parts of the open-source Java code are free and downloadable and which are licensible, and this court case stands to become a landmark in making that distinction. In fact, it could well impact the entire software industry.

While the Java language itself belongs to the open-source community and is free of charge to use, it still must be licensed for commercial deployments under the GNU Public License. The application programming interfaces of Java may be another matter, since APIs are made up of software, specifications and techniques.

Oracle claims in the lawsuit that the "specifications and implementations of the APIs are not a method of operation or system."

After the copyright infringement portion of the case is completed, the court will next discuss accusation of patent infringement by Google against Oracle.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...