Court Ruling: No Copyright Violations In Oracle-Google Java Case

Java copyrights

The judge's decision, coming little more than a week after a jury unanimously concluded that Google's use of Java in Android did not infringe Oracle's Java patents, means that Oracle -- for the moment -- has lost its bid to recover $1 billion or more in damages from Google in the long-running case.

Oracle sued Google in August 2010 charging that Google's use of Java technology in Android violated 37 copyrights and several patents Oracle acquired when it bought Sun earlier that year. The trial in the case began on April 16, initially looking at the copyright questions and then the alleged patent violations.

[Related: Oracle In The Driver's Seat For Java Development ]

After a week of deliberations the jury delivered a mixed verdict on the copyright charges, finding that Google had infringed some Java copyrights but deadlocking on the key question of whether Google's actions constituted "fair use."

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On May 23 the jury handed down a definitive finding that Google's use of Java did not violate two patents owned by Oracle.

Yesterday's ruling, handed down by judge William Alsup for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, said the APIs used by Google were not protected by copyright.

"Google has violated no copyright," Alsup wrote in his decision, because "copyright law does not confer ownership over any and all ways to implement a function or specification, no matter how creative the copyrighted implementation or specification may be."

Google's argument was that it had created its own version of Java using non-copyrightable APIs and therefore did not require a license from Oracle.

Alsup was careful to say that his ruling was specific to the Oracle case and did not nullify copyrights on all Java APIs. "This order does not hold that Java API packages are free for all to use without license," Alsup wrote. "It does not hold that the structure, sequence, and organization of all computer programs may be stolen. Rather, it holds on the specific facts of this case, the particular elements replicated by Google were free for all to use under the Copyright Act."

Oracle vowed to appeal the judge's ruling.

"Oracle is committed to the protection of Java as both a valuable development platform and a valuable intellectual property asset," the company said in a statement. "It will vigorously pursue an appeal of this decision in order to maintain that protection and to continue to support the broader Java community of over 9 million developers and countless law-abiding enterprises.

"Google's implementation of the accused APIs is not a free pass, since a license has always been required for an implementation of the Java Specification. And the court's reliance on 'interoperability' ignores the undisputed fact that Google deliberately eliminated interoperability between Android and all other Java platforms. Google's implementation intentionally fragmented Java and broke the 'write once, run anywhere' promise. This ruling, if permitted to stand, would undermine the protection for innovation and invention in the United States and make it far more difficult to defend intellectual property rights against companies anywhere in the world that simply takes them as their own," Oracle said.

Google, in a statement, said the court's ruling "upholds the principle that open and interoperable computer languages form an essential basis for software development. It's a good day for collaboration and innovation."