Google has won a major jury verdict with software firm Oracle that will defeat Oracle Corp.’s claim to a $9 billion slice of Google’s Android phone business.
The jury ruled that Google did not unfairly appropriate parts of the Java programming language. It concluded that the company made fair use of the code under copyright law.
Oracle had claimed that Google had infringed its copyright and had sought nearly $9bn (£6bn) in damages.
Oracle claimed that Google had earned $21 billion in profit from more than 3 billion activations of Android.
Oracle sought damages of $8.8 billion, plus $475 million of lost licensing revenue.
The verdict will provide solace to programmers and software developers who write applications that run across different platforms without a license.
The verdict should also provide reassurance to software companies that their method of creating common, interoperable software doesn’t put them in legal problems.
Oracle said that it would appeal against the decision.
Google’s Android System
Google uses Java in its Android smartphone operating system that powers about 80% of the world’s mobile devices.
“Today’s verdict that Android makes fair use of Java APIs represents a win for the Android ecosystem, for the Java programming community, and for software developers who rely on open and free programming languages to build innovative consumer products,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Google relied on witnesses including former Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt, who is now chairman of parent company Alphabet Inc., to tell jurors that it used Java to innovate, than merely copy code.
The jury in San Francisco agreed that copyright law allowed “fair use” of the Java elements.
Oracle had argued that seeking copyright protection to pieces of code called APIs (application programming interfaces) would threaten innovation.
Google vs Oracle
The legal battle between the two firms began in 2010 and the two firms first faced each other in court in May 2012.
In the first trial in 2012, jurors found Google infringed Oracle’s copyrights. However, the jury couldn’t agree whether it was justified under the fair use legal doctrine. That set the stage for the second trial.
Oracle lawyer Dorian Daley said it would pursue the matter further.
“We strongly believe that Google developed Android by illegally copying core Java technology to rush into the mobile device market,” he said.
“Oracle brought this lawsuit to put a stop to Google’s illegal behaviour. We believe there are numerous grounds for appeal and we plan to bring this case back to the federal circuit on appeal.”
Oracle said it plans to seek review of the verdict by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington.