Swords drawn as tech giants Google and Oracle head back to court for retrial over Android using Java
For the second time next week, the trial of a copyright case between Google and Oracle is set to begin that could lead billions of dollars in damages and change the ground rules for modern software. It will be the second trial for Oracle’s complaint, which states that Google has unlawfully used parts of its Java software in its Android OS. But, Google claims that its usage is under fair use.
This time around, Oracle is claiming that the search giant now owes it a share of the profits derived from Android, which is a whopping $8.8 billion. However, Google claims that Oracle has exceptionally exaggerated the role of Java in Android’s success.
The case previously went to trial in 2012, which resulted in a jury deadlock. Also, last month’s mediation attempts between the two companies’ CEOs were unsuccessful. In the trial starting on Monday, if the new jury rules against Google on fair use, then it will consider damages.
The case has been somewhat legally argumentative, too. The first trial led to US district Judge William Alsup ruling that things like Java APIs could not be copyrighted, before this was upended by a federal appeals court judge, who said that the structure of the computer language that connects programs can be protected.
According to analysts and stakeholders, the ruling will not have an adverse effect on Google even if it goes Oracle’s way completely, as the former has generated a whopping $75 billion in revenue last year, and the $8.8 billion would be only a one-time payment. Aware of the fact, Oracle is also seeking an injunction against Google’s future use of Java in Android, which would give Oracle more power to appeal for royalty. However, legal experts believe that is a remote possibility, as such an injunction would have to be issued by a judge, and not a jury.
Even though Java is open source, Oracle claims that it holds copyright of the APIs used in the programming language. Since Google used these in Android, rather than just the source code, Oracle believes it’s entitled to $9 billion of Google’s cash – of which $875 million is damages and the rest is a share of the company’s profits.
While a judge had previously ruled in favour of Oracle, Google is still refusing to pay up.
After the eight-hour pre-trial, the judge wrote: “After an earlier run at settling this case failed, the court observed that some cases just need to be tried. This case apparently needs to be tried twice.
“However unsuccessful, the court appreciates the parties’ settlement efforts earlier today, especially those of Ms Catz and Mr Pichai.”
Also, in a ruling this week, Alsup said Oracle’s damages expert will be allowed to testify about the $8.8 billion figure but cannot tell jurors they should award the entire amount.