Today the Oracle v. Google court case jury handed down their decision on the case surrounding Oracle’s claim of copyright infringement practiced by the major search engine firm with respect to their Android product.
A jury found Google Inc., the largest Web search provider, didn’t infringe Oracle Corp.’s patents in developing Android software, handing the database maker another defeat in a trial in which it sought $1 billion in damages.
What is Android?
Android is the operating system platform for many major mobile smart phones and tablet computing devices. There was a deadlock on the decision whether or not Google exercised or abused the “fair use” policy of Oracle’s copyrights. In the end, the Android product was found to have directly copied nine lines of Oracle code which itself is made up of over 15 million lines of code. The damages allowed to claim of the defendant will most likely be very limited and smaller than the original lawsuit filed.
A Difficult Choice to Make for the Jury
When speaking of the jury, the jury foreman conceded that:
“The more tech-savvy a person is, the more difficult it is to persuade them about what limitations should be placed on technology,” Thompson said in an interview after the trial.
I’ll agree that it is a difficult choice to make. Java is so pervasive around the world as a programming language and platform that it is hard to believe that any one company also “owns” it (i.e., Oracle Corporation). I think there was a good call by the jury who decided that the technology should not be limited in growth and development just because the custodians are a multi billion dollar conglomerate (i.e., Oracle).
Why Was Google Singled Out?
I suspect that Google was singled out to be made an example (which backfired in the end on Oracle). Why Google and its immensely successful Android platform? What about the billions of other apps and projects around the world that are ALSO coded in Java?
If you ask me, Oracle has tarnished some of its reputation with software developers such as myself. They were long custodians of many software products that developers around the world use: MySQL, NoSQL database, Java, etc.
But the company’s aggressive move to assert its interest in Java – which is, after all, open source – puts the developer community’s goodwill at risk. How badly has Oracle damaged its reputation?
Some Background on the Java/Open Source Story
A little backstory for all of you to take things into perspective: (Source: readwriteweb.com)
Sun Microsystems was well-loved among developers. It created Java and gave it to the world, asking little in return. It took big bad Microsoft to court and won. Java is one of the most important software innovations of the Web era. Until it sold itself to Oracle.
Oracle acquired Sun in January 2010 and took all of seven months to bring charges against Google for infringing its rights to Java. The database king claimed that Google not only violated a variety of patents but copied the Java language and its application programming interfaces (APIs) outright. It sought damages of $6 billion – roughly a billion shy of what it paid for Sun. The case hasn’t gone smoothly. As of last week, it looked as though Oracle does not have a strong claim to Google’s profits from its use of Java in Android.
And this is where Oracle has not only damaged its bottom line, but also its credibility. Java has been and will likely always be open source and free. Sun created it as such and developed it more as a steward than an owner. By attempting to copyright the API regardless of the impact it would have on the entire software ecosystem, Oracle has thrown the legal nature of computer languages and programming into question.
Stewardship is the key factor in Oracle’s role with Java, Just as it was with Sun Microsystems before them. They may have certain legal access to its patent, but the essence of its release to the world was a platform that was open and free for developers to use and leverage for their software projects and products.