On Thursday, a jury in San Francisco cleared Google of copyright infringement in a 6 year legal saga brought by Oracle over Google’s use of Java in Android.
The jury of 11 members took 3 days of deliberation to reach its verdict. It is a huge victory for Google and its legal team as Oracle was seeking up to $9 billion in damages.
However, Oracle is expected to appeal, which means the case may drag on further.
The previous jury failed to reach an agreement on the case, and there were chances that this jury might have done the same.
From where does this fair use question arise?
Since the trial began in May, the jury has heard evidence from a number of Silicon Valley bigwigs including Oracle CEO Safra Catz, Google’s Eric Schmidt and Larry Page, and former Sun Microsystems’ CEO Jonathan Schwartz.
Google told the jury that Sun intended Java to be free for anyone to use, that is why it made the Java language open source.
It also cited a blog post from Schwartz as evidence that Sun had no problem with Google’s use of Java. In the post, Schwartz congratulated Google on Android’s release.
However, Oracle’s lawyers painted an entirely different picture and dismissed Schwartz’s blog post.
They told the jury that Google was desperate to bring its mobile operating system to the market and after failing to secure a licensing deal with Sun, it went ahead and used Java anyway.
However, the jury didn’t buy Oracle’s argument.
When did it all start?
When Google decided to use 37 Java application programming interfaces in its Android OS, Oracle accused it of infringing its copyright.
But Google argued that APIs like those in Java aren’t eligible for protection.
The federal district court judge in the case agreed, but an appeals court overturned his ruling.
Then, Google asked the US Supreme Court to reconsider the matter, but it also declined.
At that time, the defense turned next to the legal doctrine of fair use. This doctrine allows copying of creative works, most commonly for things like criticism, satire and educational use, under limited circumstances.
The jury included whether its use of Java was “transformative,” or whether it created something new and different from the original copyright work, which in this case was Java Standard Edition.
They also considered the extent to which Android harmed Java in the marketplace.
It’s a civil case, which simply means Google had to prove by a “preponderance of the evidence” that its use of Java was not unfair.
The jury was required to reach a unanimous decision and that decision turned out to be in favor of the search giant.